This Little Piggy Went to Market #UtopYA2014

We all have the same concerns and frustrations when it comes to marketing. I say “we” because even book bloggers, while we do our best to help promote our favorite authors, are constantly struggling to find new and exciting ways to gain more reach. Many of us feel like the littlest piggy that went, “Wee wee wee” all the way home. There are so many books available, so many new releases every week, that it’s easy to feel as though we’re just treading water. So how do we change this? How do we cause a bigger splash in the literary pool?

First, I’d like to share with you some thoughts that were sent to me by a few authors and fellow bloggers. Next, I’d like EVERYONE reading this to share their own thoughts in the comments below. How do you find new books to read? Did you learn something by reading this? Have you come upon new marketing ideas that you’d like to share? You don’t have to be an author or blogger to chime in on this discussion. In fact, if you’re not an author or blogger, I definitely want to know what you’re thinking. We can certainly use a new pair of eyes on this subject!

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First up we have Michelle Muto — author of the spook-tacular novel, The Haunting Season!

When I first became an indie author, marketing seemed pretty straight forward: spend a little time on social media, contact a few bloggers, do a book tour every so often.

Times have changed. It’s more difficult now. While I have a traditional publishing deal and a great agent, I can’t seem to gain traction.

It’s not that I want (or need) to be a superstar. Like so many of my peers, I just want to pay the bills doing what I love most—writing.

So what to do? I’ve doubled and sometimes tripled my efforts on the latest social media. First, it was Twitter. Then, a FB author page. When FB started holding back on posts, it was my regular FB page. Now, the same thing has happened there. G+ is awfully quiet. Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads, LibraryThing, my head is spinning. What’s next? And frankly, there are only so many hours in a day. Even though I have met some incredible and fun people on social media, I can’t spend all my time on it. I have a family, a life.
Some people have recommended paid book tours, paid advertising in Book Bub, ENT, etc. While that does help get my books out there a little, it’s expensive. Those ads now generally cost upward of $300, and they often require authors to drop the price of the book to .99¢. Authors don’t get that dollar. We get exactly .35¢ from that sale. Before taxes. For a $300 ad, most of us are lucky to break even.

I’ve joined writer groups. I blog regularly. I have professional cover artists and editors and copyeditors. I’ve won awards and had several other top agents tell me my writing is great. Every once in a while, when the stars align, I’ve hit Amazon’s bestseller lists in my category. But the fanfare quickly fades.

Why? Good question. One I wish I knew the answer to. Word is it’s the genre in which I write. It seems that NA romance and erotica are the big trends.

Is it true? Are other genres yesterday’s news in the YA and NA market? Some authors have taken to genre switching like fish to water. They are so lucky! So talented! While I love to write, I don’t have an edgy NA romance in me. Nor do I have a desire to write erotica.

I’m not complaining. No one ever promised this was easy, or that there would be a single guarantee. I’m merely frustrated. And I’m very determined. I don’t give up easily. Clearly, I’ve missed something or I’m doing it wrong. I’d work hard at fixing it… if I only knew how. Or, maybe there is no fix. Maybe it’s just luck. Maybe my chosen genre can only support the most fortunate and few. If that’s the case, fine. I’ll know. Knowing is half the battle, right? If others make it and I don’t, I’ll happily cheer them on. Why? Because If I keep trying, I might get lucky next. If no one was making it, it dashes everyone’s hope. I’m a sucker for happy endings. Even if they’re not mine.

But in case I have missed something or gone astray, what do readers want? How do they find new favorites? Suggestions? Ideas? Does everything have to contain romance or sex?

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Photo on 4-2-13 at 1.55 PMMichelle Muto lives in northeast Georgia with her husband and two dogs. She loves changes of season, dogs, and all things geeky. Currently, she’s hard at work on her next book.

Michelle’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Next up, Bethany Lopez — author of 8 Weeks and 21 Days.
Also my UtopYA roommate. Squeeeee… only four more days!

I bet when you started writing your first book, you thought that was going to be the most difficult task you’d encounter. I hate to tell you, writing your book is only the beginning. One of the most important aspects of your new writing career is marketing.

As a writer, you’re going to need readers. In order to gain readers, you’re going to need to get the word out about your work.

There are many different ways that you can market your book(s). In the beginning, you can get your feet wet by joining different Social Media networks: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumbr, Instagram, Linkedin, etc… Make a profile and begin networking with bloggers, readers, and other writers. Take the time to play around with each one, and see which one(s) work best for you. Networking is an imperative form of Marketing. Readers and bloggers are your bread and butter, and if they like your book, they will help spread the word about it.

Another great way to market your name, and your book (s), is with swag. Now, you’ll notice I said to market not only your book, but your name. As a writer, I’m sure you plan to write more than one book, and you’ll want readers to read all of the books that you write, so marketing yourself is very important. An example of marketing your name is this bag that I had made to give out at book signings:

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I thought it would be a fun, functional item to hand out to readers, while marketing my name, and therefore all of my work, rather than just focusing on one book. Marketing your books is a great tool as well, and swag is a fun way to do that. You can make bookmarks, bracelets, or anything that you think would get readers excited about your book. The possibilities are endless.

There are companies that will make swag for you, or you can get crafty and go to Michaels. I’ve done both. I’ve gone to Etsy and bought necklaces, and I’ve bought charms that relate to my book, and made a charm bracelet for it.

Other than Networking and Swag, Marketing may include attending events as an exhibitor or attending a book signing. When attending these events, you’ll either share, or have a table to yourself. You’ll want to set up your table in a way that will bring readers to your table. A few ways you can do that are by having a banner, and/or a tablecloth with your name or tagline. You can decorate your table with your books and swag, or anything else that will be eye-catching.

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Finally, you will Market your book(s) by doing Cover Reveals, Release Day Blitz’s, Blog Tours, and Promotional Tours. There are many wonderful Blog Tour companies that you can use to schedule these. Doing so will give you access to their bloggers, therefore increasing your reach.

Marketing is a fun, and important tool that you must use in your writing career. Have fun with it! See what other people are doing, and cruise websites to get ideas. Readers and bloggers love reading about you and hearing how you came up with your ideas, so don’t be afraid to share that piece of yourself with them.

We are lucky to be writers, readers, and bloggers in this community. We have the ability to communicate and interact in a way that we never have before, and it makes for a wonderfully tightknit community. Enjoy it!

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bethany lopezAward-Winning Author Bethany Lopez began self-publishing in June 2011. Since then she has published various YA and NA books. She is a lover of romance, family, and friends, and enjoys incorporating those things in what she writes. When she isn’t reading or writing, she loves spending time with her husband and children, traveling whenever possible.

Bethany’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Last, but not least, we have Cameo Renae chiming in with her two cents on marketing. Cameo is a UtopYA nominee for best marketing this year, so you better believe I’m listening like she’s E.F. Hutton. 😉

In this ever growing and changing publishing world, authors need to have a huge role in marketing and promoting their books.
I’m not gonna lie. When it comes to it …I seriously don’t like doing either. But because this is the way I make a living, I have to motivate myself, or…become a starving author.

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It’s never too early, or too late to start.
These days it’s very easy to write and and self-publish a book, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With recent waves of new authors flooding the market, getting your book to be seen has become even more difficult. Everyone is fighting for center stage.
If you really believe in your book and believe in its success, then marketing and promoting is a must. If you don’t market your book, no one will know it exists, and you will be held responsible as it sinks down into the dark and lonely eBook abyss.
No promotion = No sales. It’s as simple as that.

Brand yourself.
When readers Google your name to learn more about the “author behind the book” – what do they see? Branding helps readers identify with you = the author.
Most of my readers know I love coffee, peppermint, am kind of quirky, and that I write within the young adult genre. That’s part of my branding, and something they can easily relate with.
Is your name easy to remember? Are your titles catchy? Are your covers eye-catching, and do they make readers want to click on them? Do you have a niche’ market? Who the heck are you?
These are all things to consider when branding yourself because – believe it or not – most readers really do want to know about their favorite authors. As they search for you, will they walk away getting to know awesome facts about you, or will they be even more confused?

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You NEED to come out of that cave!
As an author, you will find that a lot of your time is spent in seclusion. It is a lonely profession. We are tucked away for hours, days, months, sometimes even years, writing our dreams onto pages and hoping readers will love and connect with it.
But you DO need to get out of your cave and connect with people.
Don’t worry…no one can see your bed head, the black circles under your eyes, or your comfy pajamas with holes in them. They don’t care that you haven’t brushed your teeth, or have sleep in your eyes. (Now, your family might care, so remember to keep up those good personal hygiene habits. Your significant other might not appreciate rubbing up against those sandpaper legs.)

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All you really need is the internet. Get online and interact with readers. Post your new releases or promotions in places you think might drum up interest. Social media is at our fingertips. It’s the greatest way to generate buzz for your books. Use it. Be your own Pimp Master. There’s really no one better. Who knows more about you than…you? Right?
Readers love teasers, and pretty banners with upcoming information, links, and places to find you. And most of all, they love interacting with YOU.
A lot of my readers have become my friends, and have become an amazing support. Why? Because I appreciate them and take time to connect with them. A simple “thank you” posted to your supporters, goes a long way. They appreciate it, and are more likely to help you in the future.
A website is another great way for readers to connect with you as an author, and a place they can go to learn more about you, your books, and your brand.

Make that baby shine!
Another important part of marketing is making sure your book is completely polished, inside and out, before you shove it out there for the world to see. I made the mistake of pressing the “publish” button on my first book without having it edited by a professional. Sure, the very few who picked it up loved the story, but also stated there were some big issues with editing. Editors are lifesavers. Use them.

*FYI – this post has NOT been professionally edited.*

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Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram…Work ‘em baby!!!

Blog tours:
I did at least a dozen blog tours with my debut. They are a great way to get your book and name “out there” and noticed.

Send out ARC’s for reviews and feedback.
Having reviews posted on your release day really helps. Readers want to know what others really think about your book, and could be a deciding factor.

Host events for your books:
Start an event page and get people to join in on the excitement of your new release, cover reveal, upcoming books…whatever you want. People love to party and win prizes.

Have random giveaways:
Readers and fans love random giveaways. You don’t have to do it all the time, but it’s a nice way to say “thank you”, and keep them involved with what you are doing.

Play nice with other authors:
You know the Golden Rule… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Well it’s true. If you are kind and help out fellow authors, they will be more than happy to return the favor to you.
Heard of the other saying… Karma is only a bitch if you are? True again! So be genuine, and play nice. The social media world could be an amazing place to hang out if we all helped each other. Don’t be hatin’!

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Just do it.
You know what it takes to write a book, and all the time and effort put into editing, formatting, choosing covers, etc… Now, make sure you spend the extra time to promote and market it. Your book deserves it, and so do you.
New parents are a great example of marketing.
When a baby is born and makes its debut into the world, the proud parents are not afraid to post pictures and updates. As friends of the new parents, we all know what color the nursery walls are, and what the room’s “theme” is. We get multiple pictures of the baby smiling, sleeping, one eye open, eating, crawling, walking, in a new outfit, in a cute new pose… Why? Because they are excited about their new addition, and want to share it with the world.
That’s how marketing should be. Your book is your baby. If you aren’t excited about your book, why should anyone else be?
Get it out there! Make it visible! Get readers excited!

Being an Indie author will take dedication, motivation, and drive. If you don’t have it…your books will not sell. Period.
What it all boils down to is this…
Make sure you have something you are proud to market. If you believe in it, others will too. It’s all about exposure…so get going! Get excited about your books, get others excited, and get them noticed! Good luck and…sell, sell, sell!

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Cameo RenaeMy family is what keeps my heart beating, and my world a happy place to be.

I love reading great books that whisk me away from reality, even if for a little while. 🙂 Writing is my passion. I love creating new worlds and new characters, and taking wondrous adventures with them.

In My Dreams & Hidden Wings were both recently published through Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. Descent (A Hidden Wings novella) will be released May 15, 2013, and Broken Wings (Book 2 in the Hidden Wings Series) will be released June 1, 2013.

One day I will find my magic wardrobe, and ride away on my magical unicorn… ♥ Until then… I’ll keep writing! 😉

Cameo’s Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

And now let’s hear from some of my peeps in the blogging world.
Megan from Paperbook Princess is up first!

Marketing from a Bloggers Perspective

Book Tours, Cover Reveals, Excerpt Releases… if you’re a blogger you know that those are the main type of marketing tools that we come across often. There has also been a surge in the use of Facebook and Twitter Parties which are a great way to get the readers involved and not just the bloggers.

Of all the marketing events that are most common, my favorites are the Book Tours and the Facebook Parties. My reason for this is because with Book Tours, each post is DIFFERENT, and for Facebook Parties, I LOVE the interaction between authors, readers, bloggers, just everyone who wants to join!

I do understand the need for Cover Reveals and Excerpt Releases, and I love being a part of sharing a new beautiful cover or sharing an excerpt from a new book that I have, but when there are a bunch of blogs basically posting the exact same thing, it just comes across as unoriginal and repetitive.

I love participating in Book Tours and most of the books I read now are part of a tour. I have discovered some real gems this way… books that I never would have known about that are amazing just landing in my inbox… I love it! But, I learned the hard way that you have to pick who you do tours with carefully, and to not go with too many tour companies, you will get confused, mixed up, miss dates, just plain overwhelmed! After my first year of blogging I cut back to only one tour company that I deal with, I do still join other book tours occasionally if it’s an author that I have dealt with before, or I see a signup and decide the book sounds interesting, but I only deal with one actual tour company on a regular. This makes life easy, and it helps that they are so organized and always have all information needed out in time; there organization makes my life better!

I personally have started to scale back the amount of Cover Reveals that I post on my blog because there are SO many blogs posting the same thing. I would prefer having a select few blogs posting the actual reveal, then sharing it around Facebook and twitter, the way I see it, if you are reading my blog I hope you are also following me on Twitter and Facebook. So instead of 30 blogs posting the same HTML on their blogs, how about you choose 5-10 and then have the other 20 blogs tweeting about it, or sharing items on Facebook about it for the day? I think you would get more traffic that way… social media is HUGE!

That brings me to Facebook Parties and Twitter Parties… I LOVE these events, they are always so interactive and there are generally other authors involved and it’s like a giant book love fest! You can gush about the book, and the author WANTS to hear it! There is honestly nothing better for a blogger then knowing that an author appreciates what they think, it is rewarding, makes us feel like we are doing this for a reason, to help the authors that we love get the recognition that we feel they deserve! So say YES to the Facebook parties and Facebook takeovers and Twitter Parties! This is my personal favorite way of marketing your book!

I think the main thing that I would like to see more of from a bloggers perspective is creativity and originality. I know that all of these fabulous authors are super creative (how else could they write such awesomness?) Sooo let it show through! Don’t feel the need to hide behind the norm. I I am not creative in the slightest so I cant even give exact examples of what I would like to see but I know there is SO much more that can be done by authors that can utilize facebook, twitter, and blogs! Just have fun with it, but hey… that’s just my two cents on marketing from a bloggers perspective.

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And finally, we have the lovely ladies of Contagious Reads here to tell us what they will be looking for when they get to UtopYA.

Marketing for UtopYA:

You can’t deny that a convention of any sort is a great way to market! Sure, the readers, bloggers, and authors attending will buy some of your books. But what really grabs people’s attention is the swag. A really cool bookmark is a great way to stand out. I HAVE bought a book because the author swag was so cool. I might not have purchased a signed book then and there, but I did go home and buy a kindle copy. So more so than books swag, is the very best way to draw in potential new readers. Sure, you’re gonna have overzealous grab it alls like me taking one of everything (true story. Sorrynotsorry) but you’ve got this awesome chance to make a great impression in person. Even if you aren’t at your table, you swag can and should make a statement for you!

Lindsay:
Not everyone is a people person, so sometimes it’s hard to get yourself out there, talking with the masses. And honestly, as much as I hate to admit it, if an author rubs me the wrong way, I’ll probably avoid their books. How do you make a good first impression? First off, be yourself!! Chat with people, without constantly marketing your books, pressuring them to buy something. Ask them where they’re from, and ask if they’re interested in hearing about your books. If they’re not, don’t take it personally, and most importantly, DON’T BE PUSHY!

Lori: Fortunately, I never experienced a pushy author at UtopYA. Everyone was just so excited to be there that it was kind of chill.

Contagious Reads


So there you have it, folks — some fabulous marketing ideas to choose from for your next push. I hope this has been helpful, and I can’t wait to hear about even more suggestions in the comments below. Tell us how you find new books to read, what you would like to see more of from authors, or on our book blogs. We’d really love to hear from everyone!

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I hope to see you all at UtopYA Con later this week! If you still need tickets, click here to snatch ’em up.

Be sure to follow the rest of the Official #UtopYA Bloggers for exclusive content and news!

Ren of A Little Bit of R&R
Heather of SupaGurl Books
Kathryn of TSK, TSK, What to Read?
Delphina of Delphina Reads Too Much

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Follower of Jesus, loving wife, homeschooling mom, blogger, author, gamer, and a lover of the culinary arts. Toni lives in Michigan with her husband and four children. If she's not writing or curled up with a book, you'll most likely find her playing with her kids, baking cupcakes, or killing zombies.
  • Eric Asher

    Professional editing, so much yes. There is some fantastic advice shared in this post, and I’ll definitely be reading over it a few times. I’ve also found giveaways to be a great way to drum up traffic, one of the best in my experience. Toni, thanks for a great post, and big thanks to all the contributors!

    • For sure.. giveaways attract a lot of attention, Eric! I’m still trying to win a Worrible from you. 😉

  • Erin Hayes

    Thank you for this post, Toni. I’ve been struggling with trying to market my books and break into any sort of success. A lot of what I’ve found out is luck will help. But you have to work hard to be lucky. Xx

    • There’s definitely no super easy way to do it, but I hope between all of us we can come up with some new and fun ways to do it.

      • Erin Hayes

        Fingers crossed. I’ll let you know if I come across anything!!

  • Jody A Kessler

    Another great post, Toni! Thanks to everyone for sharing your advice. I’ve been struggling lately with what marketing tools and promotions are really working and what ones are a wasted effort. It’s so hard to know for sure. Having fun and connecting with people makes the biggest difference of all! I also like multi-author giveaways so that we can share the promoting and hopefully gain a larger reach.

    • I love that, multi-author giveaways. You’re absolutely right… I bet that gains a much larger reach! Thanks, so much Jody.

  • Katie Hayoz

    Great perspectives all around. Marketing is frustrating for many writers out there (myself included). Book bloggers are a huge support system for indie authors and can make the difference between an author being completely lost out there to at least finding a bit of footing.

  • Pauline Creeden

    Thanks for a great discussion Toni – we all struggle with this one, but I think it will always be the ones who never give up who win. Winners lose, but losers give up! 🙂

  • Jessica Sturgill

    Great post Toni, a lot of great advice for authors 🙂 Cameo I think hit the nail on the head interact with your fans, and thank them. When someone share something about your book, or leaves a review, A thank you can go along way. I’m not an author, and I don’t have a blog (yet), I do try to help promote authors on FB, Twitter, reviews, and other social media sites, and when the author I am sharing resopnds to my post, I am more likely to keep pimping them, because I know they appreciate that I am trying to help them. I think street teams are good, not only will they pimp you, they also make a great support system. You will have a group of fans and friends that can help lift you up if your feeling down (writers block or whatever), you can run ideas by them, get opinions, or just be silly with them. Swag is awesome…. I know I have a few t-shirts for diffrent books/authors, and when ever I wear them, someone always ask me about them, and if they are really interested I usually have a bookmark or business card to give them 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Jessica! Great suggestions here!! Yes, street teams are certainly a great thing to have for so many reason. I’m looking forward to the the street team panel at UtopYA.

  • I’ve had the exact same experiences as Michelle Muto. The amount of time I’ve put into promoting far outweighs the money I got out of it, so I stopped promoting and started writing. I won’t write erotica and can only stand a bit of romance in my novels, but I’m changing genres to try to attract a more mainstream audience. Still, like Michelle, I wonder if success is just for a lucky few.

    • It amazes me how some books I really enjoy, such as yours, find a hard time getting the spotlight they deserve. Keep on writing, Lexa! What genre are you switching to?

      • Thanks, Toni! I’m changing to writing suspense/thrillers that concentrate on action without gore. Too many people are scared of horror, don’t read it, and won’t buy it.

  • AuthorElizabethWyke

    This was a fantastic article, one in which I bookmarked to find again. As a new girl in Writing Town, I could never express enough thanks to bloggers for all the help and promotion. And to you, Toni and the other contributors on this post…Thank you for the priceless tips.

    I’m curious how many authors utilize a street team, and whatever advice they could offer in a reply here would be a ginormous help. One of my fave authors has advised not to limit your promotion to just a street team, in all its exclusive glory….But then again, she’s much further ahead in the journey than I…. thoughts?

    • Well I’m on the Street Team/Blogger side of things, but I think that advice is sound. A Street Team is a great tool for marketing if done well, but like anything else it’s going to just be one tool in the toolbox to get the job done.

      • Thank you so much for giving us your side of the street team story, Mike. Very much appreciated!

    • I have a great street team whom I adore but you need more than just that. Honestly the #1 thing I have found in the last year (& 4 books) is to write! Every release gains fans. Consider paying for a well done, large scale blog tour in the beginning and then go from there bc that will help get your name out there.
      I also have two groups of writers I work with to cross promo each other – that is HUGE. Don’t cross promo with everyone though. You need to find a group of authors you share content with or have great friendships with…over promotion (IMO) just irritates people, so stick to no more than 15.
      One group shares blog space, FB posts, tweets weekly and the other is my everyday BFF group so we do whatever we need each other to do. We also do Facebook page takeovers as a group which is more fun and brings larger crowds. We are dubbed the #Fierce5 (a superhero reference) and make that theme work for us.
      There is also luck involved as was said before. I’ve found that if I stop stressing over it and just keep writing then I’m happy. I’m doing what I love and I pray people will find me and my books eventually. 🙂 Good luck to you <3

    • I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Elizabeth! Thank you for commenting and for asking questions.

  • Great post Toni! Marketing is tough for everyone no matter what you are trying to sell. I don’t think it comes easy…ever! I am still learning my way around the social media circuit but I think you definitely have to (1) know your audience (2) be true to yourself (3) balance time, energy, and money (4) Track your marketing efforts – there is no sense in going through a marketing promotion and not knowing if you get a return at the end (5) State your goal at the beginning. I know everyone wants to sell more books but sometimes the goal of a marketing campaign is to increase FB likes or build up newsletter subscribers. Make a plan and an end goal for your campaign and track how well your efforts work. If it doesn’t get the results you want try something else. The biggest things is don’t give up!!!!

  • Melanie Karsak

    Really great posts, Toni! Many thanks to everyone. Inclined by nature to be solitary, I think most writers have a hard time marketing. I will say that some of the adds I’ve used such as Bookbub and Bookblast paid for themselves, but the halo seems to fade. Part of it has to due with genre. I have an awesome street team. I adore them, rely on their advice, and truly appreciate their time. They have been a great support network who just happen to like my books. It’s a great way for an author to develop relationships on a small scale when the larger facebook or blog feels like developing a cult of personality which is a puzzling for many writers 🙂 When a new writer sets out on this path, I think it isn’t clear how much time you have to spend networking, marketing, and arranging advertising (which are very different things). It can eat up an entire day or all of your writing time if you aren’t careful. A great resource to learn about marketing as relationship-building can be found in two great books: “Write. Publish. Repeat.” and “Let’s Get Visible.” I’d call them “must-owns” for any author. Picked up some great tips here, thank you!

    • Excellent, Melanie! Thanks so much for sharing those books with us. I’m going to have to pick up a copy of each.