Archive for the ‘Promotion – Self & Books’ Category

“In this course for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) authors, you will learn about the targeting options for Amazon Advertising’s sponsored ads and determine the most effective targeting method to meet your objectives.

After taking this, you will know how to:

  • Recognize the targeting options available for both Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Products.
  • Explain the different keyword match types.
  • Leverage product targeting in your next Sponsored Products campaign.”

Okay, let’s do this. I’m taking the course.

It’s supposed to take 22 minutes. The last one was supposed to take 12, but took me closer to half an hour, but I needed to grab a coffee and had multiple interruptions. I didn’t track how long it took this time, again with multiple interruptions.

The first batch of “pulse check” questions were way too easy. The answers were literally in the questions.

Wow. So apparently you should add misspelled keywords for seekers who are typing challenged (like me typing on my phone!), and other causes of misspelled search terms entered. If I search “thrliler” the keywords won’t pick it up as a misspelling of “thriller”. Less important search words (if, and, of, the, when) are ignored when the algorithm matches search terms to keywords.

Ooh, again using crime novels as the example. I like these people.

Broad match keywords for customers looking for “crime novel”. Pretty much the broadest search option:

“Ads associated with these keywords would be eligible to display:

  • Crime mystery novels
  • Novels about crime

But ads associated with these keywords would be ineligible to display:

  • Criminal novels
  • Crime books”

Phrase match keywords for customers looking for “crime novel”:

Customers need to use the exact phrase, or close variations, and be in the same order as keyword term. It will also reach a smaller audience than the broad match, but your targeting is to more specific searches.

For your crime novel these keywords are eligible:

  • Crime novel eBooks
  • Best seller crime novels 

But these keywords are not eligible:

  • novels about crime
  • crime eBook novel

Then you get your exact match keywords, which are exactly that. The search term has to exactly match your keyword term. Their query words have to be in the same order and without extra words. Your keywords are “crime novel” and “crime novels”, but they searched “best crime novel”, so your ad does not show on their search. It narrows it down to cost you less, but also limits your ad reach to exact matches only.

I always wondered what these “negative matches” were about. Now I know! I, for example, will want search keywords like “crime novel”, “crime”, and “serial killer”.

But for my “negative matches” I would definitely want “true crime” so I’m not paying for clicks for people who want true crime stories instead of fictional crime stories. The same goes for “cozy” to weed out people looking for a cozy mystery. Mine is not cozy. That might have saved me some $$$ when I tried to do ads before!

If your recall, my previous attempts (how long ago now?) at paid Amazon ads resulted in it costing me more for the ads than my royalties for purchases. In total, from Sep 20117 to Sep 2018 I spent $87.40 on ad clicks, with an average cost per click of $0.28. That got me a total of $37.80 in sales. That’s the list price, not the royalties you earn. And not all of those ads even had any clicks, but at least you don’t get charged for that.

In the product targeting, I immediately had a question. Do my POD books qualify for “Prime Shipping Eligibility” and how do I find out? Because that is one of the target categories.

I logged into Amazon using my partner in all thing’s account, which has Prime and searched one of my books. Here is what I found. The book on the left would be the one uploaded to IngramSpark. The one on the right is pulling from Amazon. Note the price difference because to get the same royalties you have to price it higher on Ingram. This is prices in CAD, not USD. The US prices are lower, but still higher through IngramSpark than the Amazon book. Also, this book is now available in hardcover, but only through Amazon.

Only the book on the right mentions Prime in the product search screen.

As you see below, the IngramSpark book does not show the Prime emblem, but the Amazon KDP book does. So, I guess the answer to my question, “Do my POD books qualify for “Prime Shipping Eligibility”?” is yes to the ones uploaded to Amazon KDP, and no to books uploaded through another platform. But both show free shipping. That’s a bonus for me and the buyer.

When I searched using my own non-Prime membership, the IngramSpark book shows free delivery. Curiously, it also shows “Ships from United Kingdom and sold by Book Depository CA”. Funny that I assumed IngramSpark would print it in the US with ground shipping to Canada instead of shipping it overseas. Whereas the Amazon book lists “ships from and sold by Amazon.ca” and free delivery if you spend $35 on items shipped by Amazon.

So, both books benefit from Prime memberships with automatic free shipping and only the Amazon one is charging shipping for non-Prime members, but the latter might be a bonus because I bought Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre”, which I’ve been contemplating for some months when I decided I might also want his “On Writing” memoir. When I saw that I got free shipping because together they were over $35, I used my own account to buy them instead of the Prime account of my partner in all things. But for someone without access to theirs or someone else’s Prime account, they save the shipping if they buy two of your books, or your book and something else sold and shipped by Amazon. Or, as in this example, by spending a little more for your IngramSpark book.

*Note, this one did show the hardcover option too until I shrunk the Google window down. It hid it when it reformatted for the new window size.

So, while most of this course was stuff that seemed pretty obvious, I did learn something because I wasn’t really sure about what “negative matches” was. Turns out my suspicious was right, but I avoided it in my prior ads because I just didn’t really know.

Bring on the next challenge!

I started setting up my first experimental revisiting book marketing endeavor. But at the recommended $1.17 default bid per click, and if I use the “Dynamic bids”, I have to set my daily budget for $1.17 X 2 = $2.34 minimum per day in order for the dynamic bids to work. That puts my minimum projected expense for the 15 days at $35.01, which allows me to get one bid per day at this maximum charge. If I set a budget of $60 for the next 17 days, maybe I’ll win more than one click per day? Still, that’s a lot of money for me to spend for half a month of advertising that I’ve had no success with before.

How the bids work is that it will bid up to your maximum, but only charge you a little over the next highest bid under yours. It charges you that cost per click for that ad showing up in someone’s screen (only if they actually click on that ad). So, if I win a bid and am charged $1.56 and ten people click that add, I expect to be charged $15.60 for clicks. What are the odds enough of those 10 people will actually buy the book for the royalties to cover my cost?

I’m thinking zero.

Amazon, of course, recommends using their automatic targeting especially when you are not experienced at advertising with them (like many of us!). But since I don’t really have that $60 budget, and ideally you want your sales to pay for your advertising instead of losing money on it, I feel like I need to seriously undercut their recommended default bid, change it to set bids by target group, or switch to manual targeting with a very narrow target.

$60 over 15 days is a daily budget of $4.00. When it reaches $4 in clicks on any given day, it shuts down the ad until the next day.

Okay, so after some playing around, I chose: Garden Grove (paperback and eBook)

  • Manual targeting
  • Dynamic bids
  • Product targeting: /Books/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Thrillers & Suspense/Suspense…” category “Suspense Thrillers”.
  • I used the suggested bid ($0.38). That’s a whole lot less scary than bids of up to $2.34 per click!
Garden Grove

I had zero success coming up with anything in the search for negative product testing, so I didn’t bother. I’ll try that another time when I do the keywords targeting instead of product targeting.

Because the book is uploaded through multiple publishing platforms, I actually had to check the ASIN numbers to make sure it was the Amazon book. But it looks like any book pushed to Amazon from other platforms can also be used in the advertising campaign.

It’s cool that Amazon also happens to have these book discounted. Yeah!

Remember, when Amazon discounts the book on their own, they still pay you the full royalty as if it’s not discounted. Sweet and a bonus on my potential advertising dollars’ sales?

 I also rummaged around the KDP discussion boards before doing this and noticed some people say they only do the ads and only recommend doing them when there is a new book because of their lack of success also with the ads. I’m going into this eyes open knowing I’m likely to only lose money advertising on Amazon. But enough companies do it that it must be of some benefit to some, right?

And while I’ve only really seen people recommend advertising NEW books, what about everything else you’ve put endless hours of yourself into? My name and fame are not enough to sell my already published books and I don’t have anything new currently coming out. I’m working on it but am not there yet. The new books, that is, not the name and fame.

Okay, this campaign is going live. Wish me luck.

Oh, um, what? It shows the $1.17 default bid from prior to my changing it to the product default.

But on the dashboard screen is shows the $0.38 per bid, so I guess I’ll give if a few days and see what happens. I will be watching this closely because I left it at a $4 daily budget, which I can’t really afford because life is a budget and anyone who’s paying attention to life knows the cost of everything has been going way up the past two years while your job that pays the bills paychecks never increased with the cost of living pre-Covid and are trailing even further behind now. And the cost of everything is about to explode (gas prices already are) because of the horrendous actions on another continent of one person who I do not wish to soil my blog at this time with his vile name.

Keep writing, reading, and promoting my friends.

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Next Posts (coming):

  • Amazon – Marketing Resources: “Start with a Book” & Breaking Down the Price of a Book vs. Royalties
  • Amazon – Marketing Resources: A+ Content (New!)

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Well, this is new. I’ve never had an issue trying to log into my Amazon author page.

I would just Google search Amazon Author Page and my name and it comes up. I may have to log in if I’m not already logged in to Amazon KDP on another tab.

Keep in mind, I haven’t actually touched any of this stuff in two years over the Covid lockdown.

Amazon KDP has made some changes to the marketing resources, adding new features that were not there before.

Now when I try to gain access to my page with this address (https://author.amazon.com) I get this:

Take special note of that little round picture in the top right corner. That, my friends, is my profile picture from somewhere or other for my alter ego middle grade books pen name. The same books shows here, and the top pen name listed.

I have separate Amazon author accounts for each pen name.

I am also currently logged into my Amazon KDP author account for L. V. Gaudet under another tab, and also happen to be logged into my Amazon buying account of the same name under yet another tab.

But it is still trying to default to Vivian Munnoch, which is not logged in anywhere at all.

I don’t recall actually seeing this “Join Amazon Author Central” since joining. Normally it seems to bypass this altogether.

But, no worries.

Logging into your Amazon Author Page.

A quick Google got me this:

I went back and clicked the “Join Amazon Author Central” button and it popped me right into the author page.

Um, but this looks different. I also isn’t the author pen name account I’m trying to get into.


Remember that other screen had a line that said, “We’ve carried over your Author Central account information associated with.”

Sheesh, how long has it been since I even logged in here? I haven’t had any new books to claim until now. I want to try to get that new anthology I have a short story in showing up, All Dark Places 3 published by Dragon Soul Press. (p.s. remind me to order those author copies before these crazy fuel prices jack up the cost!)

This calls for another Google search.

Yup, there we go. I am so behind with the times. Not something you want to do, by the way, if you want to sell books.

Amazon moved their Author Central to a new portal.

When did this happen? That google search article is dated November 15, 2020, so my guess is some time around or shortly before then. My bad for neglecting even visiting this page for two years and 9 ½ months. Okay, more like three years if we want to be honest.

So far at just this first page I think I like the new portal better.

Right there is has links to:

  • View all books
  • View sales ranks
  • View customer reviews
  • See how the page looks in different countries

I‘m going to have to play around in here a little, but I still need to switch to the other author account to resolve a few issues there.

Namely, getting that anthology All Dark Places 3 published by Dragon Soul Press, showing on my L. V. Gaudet author page if I can. And when setting up the A+ content for a few books, I ran into the issue that one book’s eBook link was not linked to the paperback. It shows only the eBook version in the Amazon store without the other version available. You want all format types on Amazon showing every time someone views your book on Amazon. It appears the paperback on my KDP account for some reason is linked to the eBook imported from IngramSpark, instead of to the Amazon KDP eBook. I believe your Amazon KDP account, however, is the place to fix that

Now, how do I switch to the other author page?

Switching to your other Amazon Author Page.

I just fell in love with this new portal a little more. No logging out and back in under the other name like so many platforms make you do. Like a few other platforms lately, Amazon has also streamlined this.

Seriously, I love that now on platforms like Instagram and Twitter I can now switch between the multiple accounts I manage for myself and the Writers’ Guild without having to log out and in. That’s way too many passwords to remember all the time.

So easy! In the top left corner, just click your name and it pops up with pen names to choose from.

And just like that I’m in the Amazon Author Central profile page for my other pen name.

Sometimes change really is good.

Now I have to figure out what is up with all these editions! Six editions for Garden Grove? Four editions, five?

Play around with this Marketplace tab:

I rather like this sort option:

But the first business of the day… adding in that new anthology All Dark Places 3 published by Dragon Soul Press, where you can find my short story “Dark Shadows” published under my darker adult stories pen name L. V. Gaudet. (You didn’t remind me to order those author copies .) You see here below an old anthology I was published in years ago, Mystery In The Wind, with my story “Falling”, also published under the name L. V. Gaudet. (My writing has improved a lot since then!)

Now I have work to do.

Keep writing my friends, and reading, and schmoozing and marketing, and being kind to each other.

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“In this course for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) authors, you will learn about Amazon Advertising’s sponsored ad types, identify benefits and use cases, examine placements across devices, and select the appropriate ad type for your campaign objectives. 

After taking this, you will know how to:

  • Identify the benefits and use cases for Sponsored Brands and Sponsored Products.
  • Select the appropriate ad type for campaign objectives”

Okay, let’s do this. I’m taking the course. It’s supposed to take 12 minutes. It took me closer to half an hour, but I needed to grab a coffee and had multiple interruptions.

I already knew how the auction process works from doing it before. I paid more in clicks than I made in sales, so it was a fail when I did the charge-per-click auction campaign before.

When I get around to trying a sponsored brand ad, now I know that I’ll need to create a custom landing page. I’m assuming I’ll have to create it, anyway. I haven’t gotten that far yet to find out how that works.

Bring on the next challenge! I’m going to experiment with the first book marketing endeavor.

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The Enroll in free Amazon Ads training courses starts with a “Complete the quiz to earn a badge!” declaration with a “Get Started” button and options to choose course, do the quiz, and take a survey. Teenager number one made a face of disgust and properly done eyeroll at the badge thing.

But hey, let’s earn that badge!

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Damn. “Authentication Required”. You have to log in with Amazon (again) to unlock this additional content. Now, what’s my password again?… I also had to allow Amazon Advertising to access my Amazon account profile.

Cool. Apparently, I can “Earn certification”. “Demonstrate your proficiency and earn certifications in Amazon Advertising solutions.” And they have a help button. I usually need help.

It’s a 17 multiple choice question quiz and was focused to writers. Mystery thriller books even and running out of advertising funds and being unable to increase the budget. I feel embraced and understood for the first time, haha.

A few questions the answers included 4-character acronym terms I did not know what they meant. I know what KENP is, sort of. I don’t remember what words make the acronym but have an idea of its meaning. What is ACOS and CTR? I guess I’ll be learning that. I’ve chosen KENP a few times just because I didn’t know what ACOS and CTR are.

There was a question using children’s author, science fiction novels, and fantasy trilogy examples for those of you out there.

Do I get a badge? I failed! Pre-taking any of the courses and webinars, I scored 41% on the quiz. 7/17. Nope. You have to earn 80% or higher on the quiz to receive a badge. “Sucks to suck,” as teenager number one in the house would say. She was also completely unimpressed with my failing. This is the kid who gets mad if she gets below a 98% herself on anything, so I guess I burst her little bubble of my awesomeness.

The review didn’t let me actually review the test so I can re-take it and cheat to pass. I guess I have to actually do the courses and learn before I retake the test to earn the badge.

Oh well, that’s the intent anyway.

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I like to think I’m not alone in this, but over the past few years with so much feeling useless, first from the surreal feeling of being virtually imprisoned in your own home, relegated to working and living looking out the window at a world untouchable to you, feeling agoraphobic even with the scary new world out there shut down by Covid, a character in a story not of your own making…

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Before you read on know that I, for one, am a middle ground person. I like the middle ground. It’s a space for tolerance and allowing more and bigger differences. It’s looking at both sides without having to feel like you aren’t allowed to empathize. You can see the truths and crazy on both sides and know that somewhere behind all the angry posts and memes of people attacking each other is a different world where these people were once perhaps friends, comfortably friendly neighbors, and families that joked over a seasonal holiday meal and hope we will one day return to that world with the devastating rift of these recent years an old fading scar we don’t like to think about. You can stay true to you without taking sides in a fight you don’t always feel is yours to side on and that sometimes, sometimes often, feels like it has gone a step or a mile too far. You can’t mediate the un-mediatable, but you can embrace that small warmth still in your heart and maintain friendships and family relationships with people on both sides of a thing where you can still see it from a different and less biased (because whether unbiased truly exists is speculative) perspective – your own.

The endless days into weeks into months, now passing two years of the world being an utterly alien place of people hiding behind masks, nervously pretending bumping elbows is the new handshake, scenes of grocery store rage when someone gets too close to someone else, doesn’t follow the now worn out arrows on the floor, or takes too long deciding what they want and holding up the whole aisle of people who aren’t supposed to pass… now morphed into two angrily divided factions of the rule followers vs. the equally defiant declaring, “You are not the boss of me!”, both surrounded by everyone else who just wants to get through another day with the shredded remains of their sanity intact.

Your social media groups and friends dwindle as you find groups overrun by political meme bots and trolls erasing all relevance the group had to replace it with a series of false ‘truths’ and memes designed to spread lies and inspire division and anger, and unfriending people who cross a line too far for you in their newly embraced beliefs, or newly empowered to declare beliefs you had no idea they had and subsequently attack anyone with a differing life view from them.

Without the ability to do book events, speak to actual real life people who are interested in your books and writing, cutting you off from any feeling of support in the writing that drives you, that is who you are, and feeling trapped in the unreality of fog of a life completely out of your control where you are witnessing through a computer or phone screen everything going down, people you know falling down a darker version of an Alice In Wonderland rabbit hole of madness into the world of conspiracy theories that deny logic, up means down, truths are lies and lies are truths, everything that is not what they want to hear is automatically a lie, and everyone who doesn’t rejoice in their beliefs is the enemy,…

Adding to that the long dark and short days of a winter that seems colder and has had more bad weather and bad road conditions days, and much more snow than we’ve had in a while. We’ve now hit the third highest snowfall by this date in 150 years here at 156.6 centimeters of snow!

Photo by Elyas Pasban on Unsplash

It’s all made writing and attempting to market writing feel kind of pointless. Okay, totally pointless. Everyone out there seems to be too busy being angry at each other for mundane things like your books. Even trying to write a blog post is a chore you just don’t see much point in. You do a few bits of writing or blogging, promising yourself and all 2.4 followers that you will do better and blog and write more consistently, and drop off the face of the blogosphere for more months without being able to get your head in the writing zone.

And all of this nervous anxiety, stress, and growing frustration that surrounds us all and filled our world like a suffocating dark pall has now erupted into an even more volatile divisive ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mob mentality where for the rest of us it feels that a middle ground is an unwanted by them and uncommon place somewhere beyond the dark mountains of Grimdark, past the Forbidden Forest, and beyond the river deep in the Netherworld that takes you to a new undiscovered world. Canada has erupted into protests of an eclectic smorgasbord of anti-Covid mandates, anti all Covid safety measures, anti-government, anti-anti, anti-protests, and anything else anyone wants to declare anti sentiment to. There seems to be something for everyone and anyone not following any given crowd or other is somehow the enemy. Country border crossing and streets surrounding government buildings are being occupied and blocked off with the gleeful blaring of horns, music, dancing, and street parties with, yes, bouncy castles, saunas, hot tubs, and where’s the beer garden.  They rejoice with a sense of righteousness the growth and spread of this movement to other countries and continents and are genuinely shocked that anyone would oppose and try to shut down their righteous protests. Businesses already sorely hurting from the seemingly never-ending effects of Covid are forced to shut down by the protests and local residents are yelled and sworn at, threatened, and in some cases assaulted in various protests across the country. Hospitals are targeted with slow drive-by caravans and amassed protests meant to intimidate and block access to emergency care as if they are somehow the enemy. The once celebrated doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers are warned to not wear their healthcare uniforms outside the hospital walls out of worry they might be targeted by the protestors blocking their places of work. Schools are made the targets of protests with kids sometimes being verbally attacked by adult protestors for why? Being there? – as if somehow the schools and kids are to blame for safety restrictions, are somehow the enemy too. People have been physically assaulted by having their masks ripped off their faces and angrily demanded to stop being “sheep” at some protests as though their right to choose to wear it is somehow less important than their attackers’ rights to choose not to wear it, and to demand everyone else comply with not wearing them regardless of their health concerns and what makes them feel safe even as they proclaim to be fighting for everyone’s rights to choose.

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

All this ever growing boiling up hate, fear, and anger seething around us in an ugly-dark tempest both online and in real life should be a wellspring of writing muse for any writer of darker fiction, right? It’s a million bases for horror stories playing out in the real world like a tangled heap of writhing demonic limbs in a Hades pool.

So why is it so hard to get the head into the writing game? To bring that focus to the muse and stories to life at your fingertips?

Perhaps it’s the real-life horror of having lost people you care about and worrying about loved ones, and perhaps yourself, who are at heightened risk of dying of this disease, people who need to be protected while all around you are the cries of “Me! Me! Me!” and “My rights!”, while their very demands would take away the rights of people you care about and want to protect, perhaps yourself, making them prisoners in their homes, further marginalizing the weak and sick in favor of the ‘rights’ of the healthy.

With all this, I have a confession to make. I have abandoned even trying to market since that first Covid lockdown. I’m still struggling impossibly to get my head and heart into a writing focus, let alone even thinking about marketing. I have abandoned the various blog series of posts I felt I was valiantly committing myself to. And my sales are clearly showing it. I downloaded what I could of my sales numbers for the past two years across multiple platforms and markets to find a consistently round figure appearing again and again, one that resembles a slightly elongated “O” – the ever majestic, or in this case pitiful, “ZERO”.

But at last, there seems to be that glimmer of hope. All the cliches, light at the end of the tunnel, and so on. With the mutation of this hateful disease into something that has once again overwhelmed hospitals with the sheer vast numbers of its now extremely high transmissibility, but has proven to be much less deadly overall, and now those hospitalizations beginning to drop, the world is starting to peak out of our dank dark cave to the new dawn breaking on the horizon. While some governments are caving to the angry political pressure of the protests, others are embracing a more measured careful approach to loosening restrictions and opening our lives back up.

We are finally stepping into that long promised “new normal” of learning to live with a new endemic, but still deadly for some, virus.

So, can we please now get back to writing, marketing, and life?

I am going to start with a three-pronged attempt:

  1. Tackling marketing, essentially re-learning it. My first glimpse showed me new options that I was unaware if they existed two years ago.
  2. Organizing myself and my tiny writing ‘world’, and
  3. Writing. Writing anything: A blog, story idea, story start, editing, revising, progressing WIPs those baby steps our mountainous leaps towards completion.

I ordered myself a filing cabinet. I needed one for years. Probably need two. But I wanted one that matches my desk, aesthetically, and in height to essentially give me a larger working surface. My desk pretty much just fits my laptop and because of limited living space is front and central in the living room. I’ve searched off and on for the past 3-4 years. My partner in life and everything found me the perfect filing cabinet. It’s not ugly, is really quite nice looking, and matches the desk aesthetically and in height. Naturally with the current shortages in everything from paper and wood products to driver and shipping shortages, it’s out of stock and unavailable for the foreseeable future. But I found another one, black and metal, not quite what I want, but the height measures 0.02 inches off from my desk height. I could probably put an area mat under the desk to fix that.

Unfortunately, the nice pretty perfect but out of stock filing cabinet also happens to have a desk designed to match it. So, there won’t even be a small color variance.

Can a writer collect desks like a reader collects books? Anyone want to buy a few hundred of my books so I can afford it?

While I’m waiting on that filing cabinet to be delivered (I LOVE ❤ free shipping!), I’m starting to work on re-learning the marketing thing.

I’m starting on Amazon. And, because my sales have been at or near zero across all channels with zero efforts towards promotion and marketing, It’s like starting with a new slate. I’m going to pick one book and target it alone with one marketing effort. Then I’ll pick another book and different marketing resource. I’m going to run an experiment on myself, targeting each book one at a time with a different marketing effort and see how the numbers play out. I have ten books published under two pen names, but that includes a 4-book series and one that is so far 2 books. So, when I expand into the subsequent series books, I expect any successful marketing on those will also affect other books in the series.

Under “Amazon Ads”, Amazon also has options to register for Amazon Ads webinars and to enroll in free Amazon Ads training courses. It sounds like a grand place to start.

I clicked on the Amazon Ads webinar link and it even filtered it already specifically to “Webinars” and “Book author” advertiser type for me. Nice. It wasn’t immediately clear if they charge for the webinars. They are on demand and you have to register for them.

This is what I found: “Amazon webinars and workshops are free of charge unless otherwise stated during the registration process.” So, I’ll be checking out those. I don’t have a marketing budget let alone a training budget. I need to sell books to have a budget. The ‘pays the bills’ day job helps pay our cost of living bills. There isn’t much of a wiggle there for personal interests to be added to that budget.

The Enroll in free Amazon Ads training courses starts with a “Complete the quiz to earn a badge!” declaration with a “Get Started” button and options to choose course, do the quiz, and take a survey. Teenager number one made a face of disgust and properly done eyeroll at the badge thing.

But hey, let’s earn that badge!

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Aka Don’t Fall For The Open-Ended Questions Cloaked As Being Meant to Inspire Discussion, But Really Are Open-Leaders For Trolls, Scams, and Pushy Salespeople.

Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Is it just me, or has social media become more toxic, nasty, and predatory the past few years? I’ve backed off a lot on it because of this. That and the drive for these massive companies to maximize monetizing your online activity has increasingly pushed them to create algorithms that make them progressively less relevant to your wants and needs. At least it has for me.

It feels like this never ending course we seem to be trapped on where divisiveness, anger, hate, and extremes being publicly celebrated and gleefully politicized by politicians and news media is feeding that greedy toxicity monster infesting social media.

Where did all the puppies and kittens go? Every post now feels like a political minefield ready to go off.

Social media is the ultimate double-edged sword. But it’s more than that. The metaphor can especially be taken both ways with social media – of having the possibility of both favorable and unwanted unfavorable consequences, and that it can harm both its wielder and anyone else who gets too close.

(Sidetrack: Now I have to ask, why is it that in a hardcore close-in fight the person wielding the sword in entertainment media – movies, shows, books, etc. – so often does not get cut when they handle the blade which is shown to be so ridiculously sharp that the slightest touch to fabric or their opponent’s skin results in serious cuts, and yet a lesser touch slices their opponent?)

Social media is a cesspool of tainted necessity.

Social media – friend or foe?

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

As a writer, having a platform is essential. Publishers and agents look for it. And not just a platform you started last month and have three friends and a few posts because you feel awkward doing it.

Social media is your necessary evil.

You have to have a public face. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a website, blogging, etc. This public face ideally would be vibrant and established before that publisher or agent gets your query. While they are your target for getting published, the audience is your readers and potential readers.

Having a vibrant and established platform is also time intensive. Self-promotion is a full time job. It’s also more than just posting stuff for others to see. It is interacting with people and building a network of connections – friends, family, associates, associations, companies, fans, followers…

Your readers and potential readers following your public face want to know about you. They want to know about your writing too, but without feeling like they know who you are, that falls flat. They want to feel a connection to you, as a person.

This is where some authors go wrong. The airing of personal opinions can make your fans love you or hate you, all depending on what those opinions are. Remember the J. K. Rowling vs. LGBTQ+ debacle? Publicly airing her insensitivity lost her more than the LGBTQ+ community fans she offended. And then she made the second mistake. With every attempt at defending herself she only dug that hole deeper. Fans who loved to feel like they knew her saw a new side of her they didn’t know existed and they did not like that person.

Social media is also about networking. It’s not just about putting out posts for your readers and potential publishers and agents. You also need to schmooze others in the industry. You want to make connections and friendships with other writers, publishing professionals, readers, and anyone else who can help your writing career.

This means putting yourself out there and joining social media groups. Facebook has more than you can imagine, but not all are equal. Some have too little oversight, allowing the trolls to take over. Some get spammed with junk that has nothing to do with the group and does not belong on it.

These past few years I’ve never seen so many writers groups so spammed by bots pushing political agendas. So much that the moderators cannot keep up and sometimes give up trying. I’ve never left so many writing groups because of the politicized and hate spam posts that do not belong there and were not being moderated out. P.s. this is why I like the groups that pre-moderate posts, having to approve them before they show up.

Now here’s a caution: never ever publicly complain in the group about the posts or virtually voice your leaving because of them unless you want to be publicly tarred and feathered by the trolls. Nothing brings out their claws like someone complaining they are leaving a group. Just go. Quietly.

You join these groups and work to develop a sense of community with your fellow writers and publishing peeps. You make friends and contacts. You comment on and like others’ posts and post your own hoping for meaningful dialogue.

Sometimes that dialogue is meaningful and sometimes it’s attacked by the nasty trolls. I like to block those people who unreasonably attack or pick fights with others. They are not people I want to associate with. And if the group moderators do not bring the hammer down on the trolls in any attempt to control their assaults, then I will gladly seek out a more moderated and friendly group.

Often comments on questions fall in the range from helpful to offering questionable resources.

And then there are the open-ended questions mean to inspire discussion in writers’ groups….

Don’t fall for the open-ended questions meant to inspire discussion in writers’ groups.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

If you’ve been in any of the writers’ groups on social media, you’ve seen them.

While some of these questions are people legitimately looking to start a meaningful discussion, there are also others posting them with ulterior motives. There is an army of people lurking in social media groups seeking to sell their services, dropping these open leader questions and pouncing on the people who comment on them like the spam calls spoofing numbers ringing on your phone.

They are often also cut and pasted into multiple groups. If you see the identical question popping up in multiple groups, that for me is a big waving flashing red flag.

“Blah blah blah… share your book links. Go!”

“What inspires your writing?”

“How do you promote your books?”

The questions referencing promoting are, for me, the biggest red flags.

The list of examples is endless and I’ve fallen for a few, dumbly leaving my comment among the rest of the comments, to suddenly find myself with a new ‘friend’ (the author of the post) messaging me. Sometimes they are quicker to back off, others are more along the lines of the horror I once experienced sitting through a timeshare presentation for free tickets to the Tournament of Kings dinner show in Vegas.

You know the pushy sales tactic, where (they literally did at the timeshare presentation) tell you that you are a bad and neglectful parent and your kids will hate and resent you for life, and that you don’t deserve to have kids, if you don’t buy into their vacation timeshare. They just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, try to guilt you into it, and may even resort to veiled threats, ahem suggestions, that not buying their services will harm your chances of ever seeing happiness and will result in the loss of your marriage, kids, and everyone else in your life, forcing you to live a life unhappy and alone (or for writers, book sales).

In this case the kids are your published books, your love life is potential publishers, and the vacation timeshare is paying this person for their advertising and promotion services.

“So why don’t you want to sell any books?”

“Don’t you like your books?”

“Why don’t you like money?”

“Why don’t you want to make money selling your books?”

Falling for commenting on one of these posts a few times was enough for me. It turned me off participating in online discussions. I have an especial dislike for pushy people who will not take rejection, whether they ignored the “no soliciting” sign on my door, leaving me dealing with manically barking dogs with people in the house sleeping or trying to do Zoom calls, or they find the words “No thank you, I’m not interested.” incomprehensible. No means no, means no, means stop asking.

This is why I may be tempted on occasion, but now generally avoid commenting on any open-ended posts that trigger discussions. Too often they are fishing posts. I carefully think about what posts to comment on, be it groups or friends, and still sometimes find I made a mistake commenting on the wrong post. It’s not just those fishing posts, but in the growing toxic online world too many people have become quick to anger if they happen to have a different viewpoint.

This is also why I carefully consider which random stranger friend requests I accept, and which out of the blue stranger IM messages I respond to. Because it might be one of *those people*, the pushy ‘you hate money and your books if you don’t give me money because I promise to promote your books’ people, although more often they are of the widowed or divorced veteran with kids romance scam variety of friend or IM requests.

In fact, lurking instead of commenting leaves me with only the romance scammers reaching out to me.

Keep writing my friends and play safe out there.

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We discussed how essential self-promotion is, whether you love doing it or hate it. And how self-promotion is the face you put out there to your followers.

Now we are getting into what you can do to self-promote, like blogging.

Having a website is as important as blogging. It’s another tool in your promotion toolbox. Think of your website as the center of everything you. It gives you a homepage to send people to for various purposes.

As with everything, there’s no one right way to do a website, but some things are better than others.

Don’t be bloggy.

It’s an easy mistake, but avoid making your website look like a blog. I made this gaffe when I started trying to do this stuff years ago. I’ve also seen it on a lot of websites. You can incorporate your blog and website together in a one-stop package, import your blog with an RRS feed, or just have a running list of links to your most recent blog articles, depending on what your website platform is capable of.

Just be sure your website looks like a website and not a blog. The first page of your website should look like a homepage. Keep the blog feed on another page they can easily find and click on, or in a lesser profile side stream.

Don’t backburner your website. Prioritize it.

I’m guilty of this and working to put more focus on updating it. In being so busy with life, family, the job that pays the bills, volunteering, blogging, trying to self-promote, and trying to get writing and editing done, I tend to forget my web page even exists. Bad bad me.

If this is your one-stop spot for people to find everything, it needs to be up to date. It should also be very easy for them to find and click links for your books and other products.

Keep it current and relevant.

If your blog feels abandoned, like an old house, it will not invite visitors in.

Your website is your homepage for all things you.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

As I said above, your website is your homepage. It’s where you can feature your newest release or product, sales, events, promotions, anything you want to focus on. You want links to follow you on social media, and to any store pages you’re selling your books or products on.

It’s your central hub pointing to and organizing the maze of media all your self-promotion is on. This also makes it easy for it to turn into a confusing web of links and plugs.

Try to do all this and keep that homepage simple and uncluttered. Easier said than done.

Your branding starts here.

As your focal point for self-promotion, your branding starts with your website. All points lead both to it and away from it.

Branding, in short, is how you shape the you your followers see. It’s something recognizable that immediately identifies you. Once you establish a branding that works for you, you want to express it consistently across all of your media from your website to your blog to your Facebook and Twitter.

Landing page vs. homepage.

You might see a website homepage referenced as a landing page. I’ve seen website homepages that were a landing page. Here is the key difference between the two:

A landing page is singularly focused. It is a standalone web page for a specific marketing or advertising campaign. It will typically have a single call-to-action link button.

For example, this newsletter signup button on the sidebar of my blog brings you to a landing page.

This landing page’s singular call to action is to signup for the newsletter. It asks the visitor to enter their email address and click “Subscribe”:

A homepage page is the first page visitors to your website see and it sets the stage for your website. It’s opening the door and stepping into your front entrance with just a glimpse of the home within behind the doors, aka pages and links.

This is my L. V. Gaudet website at the moment, and my other alias (Vivian Munnoch) website. They are both a work in process. As with all things writing, I’m forever working to improve my websites too.

Give your website personality. Make it stand out as yours.

Whether you are using a template or building your website from scratch, you want to give it your own personality. Make it yours. Make it stand out as a piece of you. You want your website to be memorable. To scream, “THIS IS MY WEBSITE AND IT’S BETTER THAN THE REST!”

Multiple pen names means having multiple websites.

If you are published under multiple pen names, you ideally want to have a website for each pen name. You can have a quick link for visitors to jump to your other nom de plume website. It means double the work. I have a visit button on both of mine linking to the other. With Wix, because I didn’t pay for a special domain name, this means both sites’ addresses start with ‘lvgaudet’.

Alternatively, you could go the route of treating it like a dual-author shared website. But having separate sites means you can focus each more on the target audience for that pen name. This is especially ideal if they are different genres. In my case they are different age groups.

Choosing the right website platform is important.

Finding the right website platform can take some trial and error. The first one you try isn’t always the best and that’s okay. There is a range of them out there from free to pricey, many with for both free and paid services, with different options and ways they work. Finding the right one for you makes the difference between a struggle or making updating your website a breeze.

Creating your website is like writing your story. You plot and draft it out, outline, change, and rearrange it. You might even scrap the whole thing and start fresh with a new page on a new website platform. It’s all part of the creative and learning process.

My webpage is on Wix.com. It is free and, once you figure it out, not too hard to use. It has limitations, but they all do. You can only link one blog to it. It is designed to be more friendly to Blogger than other blogsites like WordPress.

I chose Wix because after reading through multiple website platform reviews, it was in the top of the list with a majority of the reviewers, and because it’s free.

One of the things I don’t like is having to choose between adding new material at the bottom of your pages or the long slow process of moving all those boxes down a few at a time to organize it from the newest to oldest going down the pages.

For example, my “News & Events” page. It doesn’t make sense to list it from the oldest a the top down to the most current at the bottom. Who wants to scroll down that far for the most recent news? Maybe there is an easier way to do it on Wix, but I haven’t found it yet.

It only takes a moment to search ‘best free website platforms’ and you will have a screenful of articles to sift through and pick out which sites have what is best for your needs.

Keep writing my friends, and don’t let the challenge overwhelm you. Building a website can be time consuming, but it’s worth it in the end.


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How can you kill two birds with one stone? Simple. Follow that cliché! Blog.

Since most of us writers don’t make a whole lot from our writing, if you are among those that do sell any books, it doesn’t take much to put you in the red. Yes, there are ways to publish without spending a penny on it, but effective publishing, and promoting, costs money.

Blogging is one way to promote yourself and your work on any budget from, “Budget? What budget? I’m dead broke.” to “Budget? Haha, yeah, I don’t even think about what I spend. I don’t worry about money. I’ve got lots.”, and you don’t even have to blog about your work. You can make your blog about anything.

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

Just because you write a particular genre or subject, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to focus your blog on. Maybe you’d rather discuss the plight of the Pacu Fish. If you don’t know, they have weirdly human-like teeth. Personally, I suspect this is the result of some hapless person who really angered someone big time, and was cursed that they and their generations to follow will forever live as fish.

Whatever your passion is, you can make that the subject of your blog. Write it enthusiastically. Write it well. And, the most important point, try to write it on schedule.

Consistency is magical. Stay reasonably on topic. If your passion is painting burned out skyscrapers and you grow a following blogging about those post-apocalyptic symbols, your readers likely won’t be interested in your post on tapioca pudding, unless it’s pudding found in a burnt skyscraper.

Posting occasionally and sporadically won’t grow much of a following. If you are going to do a monthly blog post, try to schedule it for the same day each month. People like consistency. They want you to be reliable.

Frequent blog posts can be a big challenge, especially with daily life and other things getting in the way. If you are going to commit, make it a schedule you can likely keep. Too frequently posting could set you up to fail, and if too frequent, is also spammy.

Don’t be spammy. Nobody likes having their email clogged with spam. If I’m getting multiple notifications a day every day on the same blogger posting, I’d stop following them pretty quickly. I find one a day every day from the same blogger too much. I don’t have the time to read that and would be just deleting the email notifications and probably killing that blog subscription.

Speaking of execution, how are you committing that murder of the second ‘bird’? Blogging serves a second purpose.

Blogging is writing practice. So, not only are you working to build a following that will hopefully result in some book sales, but you are also working at practicing and improving your writing skills.

Don’t wait. Start blogging before you publish.

While the writing practice and working to develop your writing voice is a bonus, the main purpose of your blogging is to put yourself out there and build a following. Your blog is a checkmark on your writing platform to do list.

Building a following is key to building your author platform. Any potential agent or publisher is going to be a whole lot more interested in the author with an extensive following than the one with a few dozen co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, and the odd random person they don’t know in real life.

Whether you are going traditional, with an Indie or small press, or self-publishing, that following is a pool of potential buyers of your book. The bigger that pool is when your book comes out, the better your odds are at generating sales through your blog.

You want to get your followers excited about your upcoming book if you can. Get them interested enough that they are sharing and spreading the news about your book. Only a small percentage of your followers will typically buy it, so the more reach you can get them to spread for you, the more potential buyers see it, and your list of followers can grow.

How do you start a blog?

Find yourself a blogging platform and start writing articles.

Simply put, a blog platform is a service or software for managing and publishing content on the internet in the form of a blog.

WordPress is one of the most popular platforms. It has both free and paid for themes that have a range of customization ability. There are plugins that let you do even more. You have to buy a subscription to use the plugins, but you can still do a pretty decent blog for absolutely free.

There are two variations of wordpress.

WordPress.org is a self-hosted open-source software. It’s free to use, but I’m sure there’s some catch in there for them to make money off you. Self-hosted = you need a domain name and web hosting. It lets you do more than the other WordPress, but a domain name and web hosting is not included in the “free” price tag of this software. You will need to find these and will have to pay for them. This also means that you or your web hosting service are responsible for doing all customizations, updates, and backups of your blog site.

WordPress.com is what I currently use. It is a hosting service created by Automattic, so it’s got the all-in-one on providing both the blog platform and hosting service. It has options ranging from free to crazy expensive. You are more limited in what you can do than with the .org, even more limited with the free version. You can get your own domain for a price. You have to have a paid subscription for that. They plug ads on your blog to make money off you, and you cannot plug your own ads to monetize. If you max out your storage space on the free plan, you have to upgrade to a paid subscription. When that happens, I’ll likely look into the costs of getting that domain name and web hosting to switch to the .org.

What I dislike about WordPress.com is that the new editor automatically removes all extra line breaks and color in text when you copy/paste your post into it, and doesn’t allow for font type changes within the post. I write in Word, all prettily formatted, and copy/paste it into WordPress. Then I have to go through the entire post adding back in the line breaks and re-convert sub-headers back into sub-headers and re-colorized any text that I didn’t want black. Line breaks – those empty spaces – help make your post easier to read and breaks up bits that don’t necessarily go together.

Blogger is another common one. You may have heard it called “Blogspot”. They aren’t one and the same, but they do work together to provide you a blogging platform. Blogger is the publishing platform and BlogSpot is a domain service provider. Both are available for free. You can also pay to get a custom domain name.

Warning: some authors have reported having issues with Facebook flagging Blogger blogsites as violating their anti-spam rules. Apparently Facebook lately equates Blogger with spam. Hopefully they will fix this.

There are others, and also website platforms like Wix that let you do a blog in addition to the website.

Do your research before you start. Find out what blogging platform best suits your needs.

You will find that you can auto-feed many blogging platforms to cross-pollinate your articles onto other social media sites with your blog. Where they are capable of feeding to depends largely on who owns what and who set up their sites to work together. I was able to set Blogger to feed into Wix (a website platform), but had no success trying to get WordPress to feed into Wix. Blogger also fed posts into Google+ before Google shut down that platform.

This article says you can import WordPress blog posts into Wix (you have to log into Wix to read the article). I’ll give this a try later when I get around to updating and spiffing up my Wix page.

My WordPress.com blog auto-feeds posts to my author pages on Facebook and Amazon, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. It also has a new create a podcast episode feature that lets you convert your text blog to audio. I tried it out. Cons = it sounds like a robot, tends to skip words, and will mispronounce words including names and anything that is a heteronym (same spelling, different pronunciation). There is no way to fix those errors at this time. It’s new, so hopefully they fix that, but they probably won’t be able to get it to sound human.

Vlogs are another option.

Like audiobooks, they are also increasing in popularity. Why read a blog when you can listen to a video blog while you are doing other things like ignoring the other people in the room? Right?

Vlogs have their own group of hosting platforms. You could probably get away with creating the posts on your phone, but if you want a professional feel, you’re going to have to invest in equipment, find some sound and video editing software, learn sound and video editing, and find a quiet place to record. I’m probably making it sound harder than it is.

What else are these posts on YouTube, Tik Tok, and other social media and video sites where people are essentially blogging by video if not a form of vlogging? No, not the barrage of so-called challenges and other bizarre and mindless shares. I’m talking the posters who actually use these media sites as vlogs. There are other platforms out there designed specifically for vlogging.

You also have to be capable of speaking coherently while recording yourself. I’m still working on developing that talent.

One of the benefits of the blog is the side bars and pages.

In the side bars, you can have click to follow buttons, signups for your newsletter, and photo button plugs linking your readers to buy your books and products.

Pages give you the option to set up a click away page featuring any or all of your books and products.

Readers can come for the article and see your books down the side, buy them, learn more about them, and click to follow your other social media accounts.

Keep writing my friends, and good luck on those blogs.


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How cute you look. Dashing. Pretty. Pretty weird. Handsome. Bizarre. Tough. Tender.

What kind of appearance are you going for?

Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash

Self-promotion, in many ways, is like a Snapchat filter. Who hasn’t used one of those, right? The ‘old’ filter is fun when you’re goofing with friends, making them all see how awesome they look old. Or as one of the other wacky filters. It makes for hilarious party games.

But you see people on other social media using the Snap filters to change their appearance for the pics they put up of themselves, to make themselves look more flattering (because who doesn’t want to look better?) and it’s so obvious they used a filter.

That’s what self-promotion amounts to. The appearance of yourself that you put out there. Your public persona is the Snap filter of your real self. And that appearance isn’t really about your looks, it’s about your personality.

Whether you are going for genuine original you, or putting on a different face for your fans and followers, putting that persona out there consistently is work. And you need to be consistent. You can’t be the girl or boy next door full of sweetness and then lash out full of angry venom. You will alienate your followers that way. Don’t confuse them with different personalities on different social media platforms. Self-promotion means using multiple platforms, and trying to remember who you are on each is just too much unnecessary work.

If you are going to be a particular persona, own it. Eccentric? Own that too.

If you are going to be Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Alice Cooper, or some other character, then you have to put that act on any time you are doing anything to self-promote. Always in character. Always obvious about knowing you are a character, not real, because your followers know it. That’s exhausting.

What persona do I think works best? Just be you. The real you. Unless, of course, the real you is a jerk. Be personable, friendly, and easy-going. Be natural. Be the best and most likable real you that you can be. Although you might not be able to be all natural you. Not if, like me, you have strong introverted tendencies, are most comfortable in your own company, and feel completely awkward about promoting and talking yourself up or talking to audiences of any kind. You’ll have to fake the outgoing personality a bit then. But it gets easier and more natural feeling the more you do it. Kind of like that bike you learned to ride.

And when you get out of practice, like relearning to ride a bike (I did that), it’s easier the second time around.

Wherever and however your are promoting yourself, everyone will see through a fake façade. If you try to sound too smart, funny, or cute when you blog, when your blogging or vlogging voice just isn’t you, followers will pick up on that quickly if they meet you in person or follow you elsewhere. If you put a personal note in the front or back matter, make it real. Make it you. When you do a bio of yourself, try to put a little of your personality in it, even though you are writing it in the third person.

Here’s a secret: readers like to feel a personal connection to the author, like they know you. Like they can think of you as perhaps a distant friend or an acquaintance. I’ve listened to teenagers rave about their favorite authors and it always seems to share one common thread – they will happily tell you about something they feel is personal about the author. Something they found Googling about the author, from an author interview or article about the author, or just from following the author on social media. It might be a story the author shared about something that happened in writing or publishing a book, at a book event, in an interview, or in their personal life. That connection seems to have a bigger overall impact in that age group than the quality of the writing.

Adults seem to gravitate more to the story that enthralls them first and the author’s personality second. But if that personality fails, so does their opinion of you, and that translates to their opinion of your books.

Think before you speak. Another important tip. It only takes a single one-off offensive comment to ruin a reputation. Insulting people and making hurtful comments is not a way to sell yourself or your books. Your personal views are separate from your writing quality, but not from your reputation, and it’s that reputation you want to build. When you put respecting others first, you bring greater respect on yourself.

Do no harm. That should be first and foremost in your actions and comments. Think before putting something out there publicly that you cannot take back. You do not want to alienate entire communities of potential fans, whether it’s by being insensitive, flipflopping the public persona you put out there, or by being unlikeable.

And remember, the easiest way to not slip up on your public face is to just be you. Be nice. Be respectful. And be real.

Keep writing my friends, and think about the different ways you can self-promote you and your books.

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You hate it, but you have to do it. Self-advertising.

But what does self-advertising really look like? And why did I just call it “self-advertising” instead of the normal term “self-promotion”?

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

The two terms mean the same. Usage may be more about where you are from than anything. The point here is to get you to think outside the normal box. Draw outside the lines. Explore new clichés, invent new metaphors, and find new ways to promote yourself and your work – preferably without annoying and alienating your would-be readers with all these clichés.

Self-promotion – Oxford languages (British) describes it as:

“The action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities, especially in a forceful way.”

“she’s guilty of criminally bad taste and shameless self-promotion”

Self-advertising – Collins dictionary (USA) describes it as (Oxford apparently doesn’t want to touch it):

“Self-advertisement in British English NOUN

The act of gaining publicity for oneself and one’s activities esp through pushyextrovert behaviour and not hesitating to put oneself forward.”

Okay, so we established that whatever your preferred term to call it, self-promotion is you being a pushy bugger, putting on your extrovert gear and promoting and publicizing the hell out of yourself and your work to as many people as you can.

Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I am not an extrovert. I am much happier alone in my happy place with a glass of wine, my dogs and family nearby, watching birds, squirrels, and bunnies, and the trees outside, while writing scenes of terror from my head through the keyboard to my screen.

“But what actually is self-promotion?” you ask?

It has many faces. That Facebook friend who keeps constantly plugging their book in their feed, in others’ posts comments, and anywhere else they can. The endless list of plug-n-dash Facebook groups for blatant self-promotion where everyone just plugs their book and pops on to the next self-promo group. (Does anyone actually get sales from the plug-n-dash groups?) Giveaways, contests, paid ads, book events, they all fall into the self-promo territory. These are just the tip of the list.

It already sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

But, like the demon in a horror, it is a necessary evil.

At some point most of us who have at any time published with a publisher have questioned why the onus seems to be on the writer to promote their own book, why the publisher isn’t doing it all, or at least more.

The simple fact is that, just like you, the publisher has a limited budget they can and are willing to spend on a book they don’t have high guarantees will sell and sell well.

If you are a very famous top tier author, maybe this isn’t a thing. Your millions of copies of guaranteed sales in the first run alone gives the publisher a nice budget to invest in widespread promotion. Your very existence is promotion too.

Even well-known authors do a certain amount of self-promotion. I’ve seen Dean Koontz (I’m a fan) promoting his own books on social media.

For most of us – lower tier authors who may have awesomely fantastic viral-worthy best-seller potential books – who are maybe published with an indie press, small publisher, medium publisher, self-published, and even with big publishing houses – self-promotion is both a case of self preservation and an expectation of the publisher.

While your publisher should be doing their part with what budget and social media reach they have, the bulk of it rests on your – the author’s – shoulders. This also means the publisher should be working with you. If you are inexperienced, they should be doing everything they can to teach you how to self-promote, what inexpensive options are out there, and what in their experience has or has not worked. They should make it clear what they can do to help and what your options with them are.

Reduced price author copies should be a given. How else are you going to sell them at book events without having to over-price them to cover your costs? And yes, you will have to buy copies of your own books, and pay for the shipping, in order to have copies on hand to do book events. Your publisher is doing this as a business, to earn a profit. But if you can get them at their cost or little more, that’s no different than ordering your own self-published copies from KDP to sell at events

But what else? What other perks does your publisher offer to help you self-promote? Are they willing to offer discount sales in conjunction with you doing a self-promotion event or tour? A freebie eBook download for people subscribing to yours and their mailing lists in the hope subscribers buy your other books?

Together we will explore what self-promotion can look like. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Blogging and vlogging. Newsletters and websites. Book signings and sale events.

These past few months I have done two self-promotion things that fall under none of these.

I won a story contest. My short story, Unknown Caller, won the Manitoba Writers’ Guild 2021 Bloody Valentine short horror story contest in a blind submission. The payment was in the form of a gift certificate from McNally Robinson Booksellers and the reach was only to the Writers’ Guild’s smallish newsletter mailing list – it was published in the newsletter only. So, the promotion gain was negligible in the scheme of needing to reach wide, but it is still promotion. Even that scattering of a few hundred email subscribers who will actually open and read the story could potentially result in a book sale or two, or even better, online buzz about your writing. (“The average email open rate for all industries we analyzed is 21.33%.” -Mailchimp).

Photo by ammar sabaa on Unsplash

I (gasp) took part as a panelist for the virtual Keycon 2021 (Keycon38): Ghosts in the Machine May 22nd with fellow authors L.T. Getty (I have read and recommend her book Dreams of Mariposa if you like steampunk vampire stories – it is not a romance despite the romancey cover) and horror author Reed Alexander, who I met for the first time on this panel. The theme for this year was horror in science fiction, two things I personally feel go well together. I was terrified of doing it. As I’ve said many times, I am not a public speaker and actually find public speaking to be dread-inducing, panic time, and really awkward. While participation in the panel was small – it was their first virtual con and Winnipeg is a small but wonderful community – I do believe they intended to record and upload these panels for posterity – and potentially to laugh at my awkwardness. But really, despite my lack of experience and zero comfort zone, I actually enjoyed it and would do it again. The organizers put in a lot of hard work to pull this off and, despite technical issues with Discord, they did a pretty marvellous job for having no real budget.

And maybe, just maybe, my appearance and participation with Keycon might result in a book sale or two, or a little online buzz, or someone remembering my name at some other point.

These are just two of the faces of self-promotion and no promotion is too small if it gets you out there before a single person who never heard of you or your writing. Except for no promotion at all. That is definitely too small.

There is no way around it. Effective self-promotion is hard work. It’s a full time job in itself. It means maybe doing things you are not comfortable with, like public speaking online where a million people potentially could see you and laugh at you. It can also cost a lot of money. And no matter how much work and money you put into it, there is no guarantee that it alone will culminate in mass sales, even a small mass.

Keep writing my friends, and self-promote your asses off.

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