New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Happy 2014

What writing resolutions are you making for 2014? Here is a sample of goals that you might set:

  • A writing quota for books, stories, or articles that you will write. Set a reasonable expectation.
  • Marketing goals might include trying out new ideas, learning new strategies, or devoting more time to this task.
  • If you feel like you worked too hard in 2013, you might want to devote more time to family and find a better balance between writing, marketing, and family time.
  • You might want to devote more time to writing if marketing or other activities are cutting into your writing time.
  • The new year might be a good time to try out a new writing style or genre, or to develop some new characters.
  • Making an effort to get traditionally published, or switching over to self-publishing, are possible goals.
  • You might join a writer’s forum or book club, attend a conference, or get involved with a writing-related group.
  • A new year is always another opportunity to stay positive and deal with stress better.
  • Common resolutions, like exercising more and eating write, are valuable for writers, too, especially as we spend much time sitting at a desk.
  • Perhaps you’d like to read more books in 2014.

What are your writing resolutions for 2014?

Happy New Year!

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

The Great Paperback Hangover

Hung Over

Sales of most print books peak in December because paperbacks and hardcovers make for great holiday gifts. Any book that would make a suitable gift tends to see a considerable improvement in sales frequency during December.

Up until Christmas Eve, that is. Then the happiest time of the year for print book sales is followed by the great paperback and hardcover hangover.

People are busy spending time with family, traveling for the holidays, checking out their new presents, and enjoying their vacations to buy books. Besides that, they’re broke from all the holiday shopping they just did. Therefore, few print books sell between December 23 and January 1. Sales may slowly build after that, but probably not like they were in mid-December, except for seasonable books that do well in January, like academic books.

CreateSpace authors are likely to see little activity between December 23 and January 1, and it’s not just from the lack of post-Christmas sales. This has to do with holiday returns.

More sales in December means more returns. It’s even worse since many people who receive gifts return or exchange them, or simply prefer or need the cash instead.

So even if a few books do sell shortly after Christmas, there is a good chance that they will be filled with returned books rather than by printing new ones, in which case no royalty will be reported.

This is a great time to focus on family, spend time writing, and avoid checking your stats for a week or two.

Good News?

However, there may be good news if you sell e-books. While the sale of most print books drop off in late December, the sale of most e-books are on the rise. The effect is probably not as pronounced as it had been in recent years, but some people did receive new e-readers this holiday season and are looking for e-books. The residual of this effect may last as long as the end of February or so, though the most significant impact will likely be seen just thru January.

About My Blog

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What Are Your Writing Goals?


How you define success, establish expectations, and prepare a marketing plan depend on your objectives.

So as you plan the new year and make writing resolutions, take a moment to consider your objectives as an author.

Here is a sample of writing goals:

  • To master the craft of writing. Spend more time writing, of course. Also, spend time reading classics and the kind of writing you wish to master. Seek feedback from readers. Search for writing tips.
  • To share your writing with others. Post writing on your blog. Publish a book. Publish poetry, short stories, essays, or articles online or in print. Market your written works to your specific target audience.
  • To support your writing hobby financially. Research which kinds of books you are a good fit to write, where there is a significant demand. Perfect your book to improve your prospects for good reviews and recommendations. Seek a traditional publisher or design a highly marketable cover, blurb, and look inside. Learn how to market your book effectively. Look for related jobs that you may excel at, such as editing or cover design.
  • To have fun. Write in your spare time as a hobby. Enjoy it. Be creative. Devote more time to writing and less time to marketing and other related activities. Find fun and creative ways to do those other activities so you can keep the focus on enjoying your writing. Don’t get caught up in stats or reviews.
  • To leave a legacy for your children. Involve your kids with your books. Make up stories for them at bedtime. Write special stories or poems just for them and publish them privately. Encourage your kids to assemble books and publish those privately. Mention your family in the acknowledgments or dedications section of your book. Specify how royalties will be awarded and distributed in your will, and provide information that will help your heirs understand and manage your books and author platform.
  • To gain accolades. Master the craft of writing and storytelling. Focus on perfecting your book idea and the book itself. Enter contests. Learn from your experience and enter more contests. Create a fan page and include a link to it at the end of your books. Interact with your fans. Attend writing conferences. Build connections among writers, agents, and editors. Develop a very thick skin because there is much criticism on the road to praise.
  • To try out a new genre or writing style. Don’t view it as an experiment. Have fun with it, but also take it seriously. Research what you will be writing thoroughly. Motivate yourself to master the new art. Do your best, as if it’s the only way you will ever write.
  • To share your knowledge or help others. Master the material you wish to share. Master the art of explaining ideas clearly. Master the art of teaching effectively. Research your specific target audience’s learning styles and background level. Perfect your article or book. Post relevant free content on your website. Post relevant content on other websites to reach people who aren’t already in your following. This can be an online article or a YouTube video channel, for example.
  • To get published traditionally. Research books that are highly marketable which are a good fit for you to write. Master the craft of writing your book in a way that will please a specific target audience. Make connections with agents, editors, illustrators, cover designers, and publicists. Receive advice from experienced, successful publicists and agents at the outset of your project. Subscribe to magazines and newspapers that are a good fit for your writing. Read and study those articles for several months, then submit your own articles for publication. Research how to write query letters and book proposals. Find a literary agent. Post your rejection letters where you will see them every morning to fuel your motivated self-diligence. Strive to improve. Never give up.
  • To become instantly rich and popular without any effort. Don’t write at all. Get a full-time job. Be frugal. Spend every spare penny on lottery tickets. Hope. Pray. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t pan out.

Publishing help

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Why Do You Write?



Is your writing fueled by passion?

Is it a hobby that’s much fun?


Do you possess knowledge to share?

Do you give help because you care?


Perhaps you write to entertain.

Maybe you do it to heal pain.


Please don’t say you write for money,

Although sales are sweet as honey.


Are you just a muse’s vessel?

Are you writing to soothe your soul?


Could your books be your legacy?

Could they be art for all to see?


Copyright © 2013 Chris McMullen

The Power of a Backlist


If you read about the success stories of indie authors, you’ll see that many of these authors benefited from a backlist.

What is a backlist?

A backlist consists of books that the author had written previously.

Authors who have been struggling to publish traditionally for several years have a backlist, which includes rough drafts and proposals for several books. Writers who have been writing for a hobby sometimes have a backlist—i.e. books that they’ve completed, but have never done anything with.

(Publishers use this term differently. For a publishing house, a backlist includes books that have already been published previously, as opposed to new releases.)

How can it help?

2008 was a great time to be an author with an extensive backlist. The indie revolution was just getting underway. CreateSpace, Kindle, and Smashwords were unlocking doors. Authors with a backlist who self-published hit the market with several books in a short period of time. Few customers were aware of self-publishing. There was much less competition. A backlist then gave indie authors a huge advantage.

A backlist can still be powerful today.

Here are some ways that a backlist can help an author:

  • With several [good] books on the market, you [can] look like a professional author who is serious about the craft of writing. Readers see that if they try your book and like it, there is much more where that came from.
  • Some customers will buy multiple books at once. Customers who like one book may try your other books. Your books appear one on another’s customers-also-bought lists. Having already written all these books when you first publish, you can mention all of them in the front or back matter of every book. In these ways, your books help to market one another.
  • You skip that long period where you’re starting out with just one or two books available, looking like a newbie author. Whatever sales you would have with just one or two books, you’ll have more with several [marketable] books. You’re not just marketing one book; you’re marketing multiple books. Anything you do in the way of marketing helps to stimulate more sales than if you just had one book. These things help to give each book a more solid sales rank when it starts out, which helps each book’s visibility.
  • Completing a few books before you start publishing, you’re a more experienced author before your books hit the market. You also have the opportunity to solicit feedback, benefit from a writer’s forum, start a blog, build a following, build buzz for the release of your books, get your social media started, learn more about publishing, etc. There are many benefits to starting out looking like a complete, professional author, compared to starting out with one book and then learning about book marketing.
  • Too many authors who publish one book make the mistake of viewing it as an experiment. If you don’t put your best effort into the book, into cover design, into formatting, into editing, into marketing, and into spreading the word about your book, the results of the experiment will be meaningless. In contrast, the author who publishes a backlist of a half dozen books that he or she has been working on for years takes publishing very seriously. This author is more confident, more determined, more motivated, more diligent, and won’t give up easily. This author will also, in general, put more effort toward the marketability of the book (i.e. perfecting the cover, blurb, editing, formatting, and writing). The author is also more likely to research which kinds of books sell and how to write a highly marketable book.

What about a series?

A fictional series might work better to release one volume at a time. As the popularity of the series grows, this helps to create buzz for the next volume. Most nonfiction series probably works best to release several books together (unless it reads more like fiction).

A set of similar books, in contrast to a series, might work better to start with several books at once.

My backlist

I started writing books, drafts of books, putting together book ideas, preparing worksheets, and drawing illustrations on the computer back in the late 1980’s. I published my first book in 2008. That gave me twenty years to prepare an extensive backlist.

I didn’t plan it that way, but I benefited from this. This huge headstart is how I have published as many books as I have.

I published the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks starting in 2009. I released several titles in a short period of time. Customers didn’t view each of my math books as a book, but as part of an extensive series. This definitely helped. Also, it was very clear from my royalty reports that more customers bought several books from the series at once than bought just one book. All of the books in the series were showing on each other’s customers-also-bought lists in a short period of time.

Have times changed?

Comparing 2013 to 2008, most people know about self-publishing now, whereas few knew about it then. Yet there is much support for indie publishing now, since there are numerous indie authors plus their family, friends, and acquaintances, many of whom support the concept.

There is much more competition now. Many authors who had a backlist and published around 2008 turned into success stories that inspired many other authors to try self-publishing out. There are now millions of indie books on the market. Unfortunately, most self-published books sell fewer than once a day on average. Only the top couple hundred thousand books sell once a day or more on average. There isn’t too much more competition at the top than there had been, which provides a good opportunity for highly marketable books. A backlist of highly marketable books can help you rise toward the top.

Also, similar books tend to be more complimentary than they are competitive. Sales of similar books actually help one another. A foolish author who succeeds in deterring sales of similar books shoots him- or herself in the foot through customers-also-bought associations and other ways that similar books tend to help one another out. Customers don’t usually buy one book or the other, but over time buy several similar books. If all the similar books start selling better, it helps them all out; if any start selling worse, especially the ones with a better sales history, it can pull the similar books’ sales down, too. (So don’t be a fool.)

The most significant change recently is the role of the traditional publisher. Originally, self-publishing was more of a minor nuisance and inconvenience. People in the publishing industry either ignored it or miscalculated the effect of trying to market a lousy image for self-publishing and a great image for those exclusive authors who publish traditionally. They also kept their e-book prices high, which left the door wide open for indie authors. They went with traditional marketing, i.e. book reviews in major newspapers and televised author appearances, feeling that professional marketing gave them a big edge over indie marketing. Many successful indie authors tap into many more marketing resources and show more creativity in their marketing. One big factor is that the indie author feels a greater need and sees a more direct benefit for the marketing.

Recently, more traditional publishers have explored the effect of more affordable indie pricing. More traditional authors and publishers are starting to take advantage of the marketing opportunities that until now have mostly been sought out by indies.

Some traditional publishers are starting to adapt more effectively to the publishing revolution. This will in turn change what indies need to do to succeed in the publishing business.

Starting out by publishing a backlist is one way to potentially begin your writing career with a healthy headstart.

Should you wait to publish?

If you have one or two books in progress now, nobody is twisting your arm to publish your book at the earliest possible moment. There is no harm in waiting. In fact, there may be several benefits to exercising much patience. You could choose to spend a couple of years putting a professional online platform together, learning publishing tips, growing a following, receiving feedback, building buzz, preparing a backlist, and perfecting your books. Starting out looking like a serious, professional author with a complete author package may outweigh the benefits of getting one or two books on the market quickly.

Which will be better depends on your unique situation, and also depends on exactly what happens in the future, which, of course, isn’t entirely predictable.

It’s hard to say. But it’s something to consider. Many highly successful indie authors started out with a backlist of highly marketable books. This shows that it can be an advantage. (But it doesn’t guarantee that it will be.)

Another thing I see is a large number of tween and teen authors. I think this is great, but I also wonder if some may benefit by waiting until they are older and starting out with a backlist. (Especially, the more immature ones are more likely to make big marketing and publicity mistakes.)

When I was a teenager, I would have enjoyed reading a good book by one of my peers. It’s easier for teens to relate to teen writers. Most people who write about teen writers focus on the benefits of older writers having more wisdom and life experience. These are great points. But there are also advantages to teen authors writing to a teen audience in terms of being easy to relate, having a more hip style, being more lively and energetic, and being at that point in life where you have big dreams and wondrous curiosity, etc.

But I also know that as we grow older, we sometimes look back at our earlier writings in a different light. Some writers who publish at an early age come to regret it later.

There’s always the pen name as a back-up. It’s generally easier to market in your own name, but if you write as a teenager and regret it later, you can always start over with a pen name.

The idea of a backlist might tip the scale in the favor of waiting a couple of years until you have a half-dozen books ready.

Publishing help

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What Readers Want

readers want

If you’re a writer, the most effective way to attract readers is to carefully consider what readers want. It really is that simple.

But don’t fall into the common trap of thinking things like, “Most people won’t mind if there are typos,” “I know someone who paid $25 for an e-book, so I can sell mine for $9.99,” or “The content is more important than the cover.”

Don’t think, “What will the reader settle for?” Think, “What does the reader want?”

Fewer customers will settle for it. Many more customers will buy what they want.

I don’t mean that you have to write in the most popular genre. I don’t mean that you have to sell out, compromising your beliefs. I don’t mean that you have to study the bestsellers and copy their techniques.

You do need to think long and hard about what your specific target audience wants if you wish to maximize your sales. Following are specific examples of what I mean:

  • Readers want stories that they will enjoy and nonfiction books that will be useful. The storyline or content should be complete, thought out well, engaging throughout, pleasing to the specific target audience, better than average, and within reasonable scope of their expectations (based on the cover, blurb, and category). Readers want to love or despise the main characters, and they want to relate to characters or enjoy a new experience.
  • Genre readers want their expectations for the genre to be met. For example, romance readers want to fall in love, cry over broken hearts, see broken hearts mended, enjoy a happy ending, etc.; in a given romance subgenre, they want just the right amount of explicitness. They don’t want the protagonist to have certain behavior flaws. It pays to research and understand the specific target audience. Readers don’t want stories that violate important rules for the genre.
  • Readers want a clear indication of what they’re getting at a glance. This means that the cover must visually show what your book is about. The precise fiction subgenre or nonfiction subcategory should be obvious from a quick glance at your cover. The cover should also indicate the nature of the content. Why? Because the reader wants to find books quickly. Books that don’t send a clear signal, or which send mixed messages or the wrong signal, won’t get the limited attention that shoppers have to offer.
  • Readers want the blurb to be honest, clear, concise (so they can decide quickly), and pique their interest. If 100 words don’t interest the reader, it wouldn’t be wise to read 100,000 words by the same author.
  • Readers want books to be easy to find. They want to find it in the relevant subcategory (and not find it where it doesn’t belong). They want to find it with relevant keywords (but not find books that shouldn’t show up in the search). They want the cover to depict the content and genre clearly to help them find the book. They want a title that’s easy to remember and spell. They want to see book reviews that help them find good books. They want the author or publisher to go to the trouble of helping them find books they are likely to enjoy. But they don’t want intrusive advertising.
  • Readers want books that are well-written, nicely formatted, and free of spelling, grammar, and other mistakes. They are paying money for a book and they are investing time in the book, so why shouldn’t they expect to receive a professional book in return?
  • Readers want a great value. They don’t just want a low price. They want a great book at a fair price. Some readers shop a higher price range thinking that you get what you pay for. But no matter what the reader pays, the reader expects to receive a great book. Even if the book is free. It’s not worth investing several hours on a book for it not to be professional and good, even if it’s free.
  • Readers want a great story, great characterization, great editing, great writing, great formatting, a great cover, a great blurb, and a great price. Why not? When there are books out there that are great all around, why should any reader settle for less?

Give readers what they really, really want, and your book is apt to find many more readers. Give them something they must settle for, and only some (if any) will choose to settle.

Remember to ask yourself what readers want. Ask yourself this when you’re writing your book, when you’re formatting your book, when you’re pricing your book, when you’re writing your blurb, when you’re deciding on your cover, when you’re marketing, and in your public relations.

For example, there are customers who absolutely do not want you to invade their space in the review section and comment on a review. Since some customers feel very strongly about this, it may be best to give them what they want.

If you were an entrepreneur running a small business, it would serve you well to think about what the customers want.

As an author-preneur, it serves you well to think about what your specific target audience wants.

About My Blog

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Fortune Cookie for Authors

fortune cookie

A local Chinese restaurant was one of the few places open last night. I found this note in my fortune cookie: “In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”

Writers often have extraordinary ideas and make extraordinary efforts.

Authors shouldn’t be content with failure. They should work hard to succeed.

But they shouldn’t fear failure. Focus on perfecting the book. Completing the attempt itself is a success and reward of its own.

I had several book ideas beginning in the late 1980’s. I wrote some books. Started other books. Drew thousands of illustrations on the computer. Typed up worksheets. But didn’t publish my first book until 2008.

The idea that finally motivated me to publish was an introduction to the fourth dimension. I put much time, effort, and energy into my book on the fourth dimension for a couple of intense years, then explored my publishing options. Not content with my traditional publishing options, I looked into CreateSpace, and wound up publishing my extensive backlist over the next few years with them.

My book on the fourth dimension1 was my top seller for several months, but is no longer one of my top ten in sales. It had peaked with a sales rank of about 5,000 (it’s a paperback) for a couple of weeks in 2009, but is presently in the hundred thousands.

I had familiarity with publishing, formatting, and editing from several articles that I had published in Physical Review, and I had previously prepared 100-page master’s and doctoral dissertations, which are highly technical books with precise formatting criteria. Even then, formatting, editing, and publishing a book with hundreds of figures plus tables and equations proved to be a monumental task.

It’s not perfect. If I were formatting this book today, I would use a different design and font choice, plus I now know about things like widows, orphans, tricks to perfect vertical spacing, and foliation.

But I remember how much time, thought, and effort went into that book. From that, I would count this book as a success even if it hadn’t sold, and even though I could make it better with what I know now. I can appreciate the attempt itself.

For artists, isn’t the attempt itself what matters most? Make an extraordinary attempt. Do your best to perfect your art. Then no matter what, it’s a success.

I’ve been fortunate to have many publishing successes. The first six months seemed like a disaster, things started out very slowly, and there have been many trials and tribulations along the way. But I persisted.

I could have failed. For six months, it seemed like I had. But I didn’t fear failure. I gave it my best shot. It paid off in the long run. But even if it hadn’t, I’d still have my book on my shelf in my office, and consider the attempt an accomplishment.

Really, there is nothing to lose. If you finish your book and feel that you have perfected it, you’ve already won before you even sell one copy.

Many authors have extraordinary ideas and make valiant attempts. But not every author feels successful. Part of this has to do with perspective: Polishing and publishing a book is quite an accomplishment. Part of this has to do with expectations and patience. And part of it has to do with the book’s marketability.

Don’t undervalue the attempt itself. That’s the art. It can have much value and its value may be independent of sales or praise.

Don’t lose hope and patience. I know firsthand that things can improve considerably even if they start out very slowly. There is no guarantee that things will improve, but they can, so there is hope. All you can do is your best with the things you can control, and if you succeed at that, that’s an accomplishment of its own.

May you see improvement in 2014. 🙂

Perfecting Your Book

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Chris McMullen

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

1. My original book on the fourth dimension is The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Vol. 1 (paperback)

2. My newer book on the fourth dimension is available in Kindle or paperback, and appears in color: A Visual Introduction to the Fourth Dimension

Did You Return the Gift of Reading This Christmas?

Gift 2

Have you enjoyed any good books this year?

There is a simple way to repay the favor: Leave a review or refer a friend. Tell other people why you enjoyed the book so they might enjoy it, too. This way, you can share the gift of a great read with others without spending a penny.

Happy holidays!

Chris McMullen

Creative Marketing Ideas for Books


Imagination. Authors use it to write books. Readers look for books that apply it effectively. So why not use that creativity in marketing, too?

Here are some creative marketing ideas for generating book publicity:

  • Small stickers with your book cover on them. Use them to seal envelopes and the recipient will surely see your book cover when opening your mail. An alternative is to print your book cover directly onto the envelope. Stickers can also be applied to many other items besides envelopes.
  • How about a nice tattoo of your book cover on a visible body part? What more could an author do to show how much he or she believes in his or her book?
  • But you can achieve a similar effect without the pain or a permanent mark on your body. It’s called a t-shirt. If it looks nice, other people might even wear them. It doesn’t quite show the commitment of a tattoo, but I’ve never met a reader who only reads books by authors who tattoo the covers on their bodies. In cold weather, t-shirts might get covered up, so a hat might be a good alternative.
  • Advertise your book on your car. The mild way to do this is with a bumper sticker. But you see more and more small businesses with extensive paint jobs to market their products and services. Sometimes, it’s just a website written on the back. Other times, the entire vehicle is transformed. Imagine thousands of people stuck in traffic, seeing your book on your car. Would this brand your book’s image effectively? Or would people think you’re a nut? Maybe it depends on how professional it looks and how mild it seems.
  • More traditional ways to publicize your book include business cards, bookmarks, flyers, and brochures. A bookmark that looks nice enough to use (i.e. not like an advertisement) helps to brand your image, at least with readers who still use print books. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone, who knows who, accidentally misplaced a few of your bookmarks inside similar books at a bookstore? How did those get there?
  • Wouldn’t it be cool to have some pens or pencils that feature your book? After all, you’re a writer.
  • Suppose you are friends with some experienced authors and between you, you have dozens of books. Imagine spending a day renting a small kiosk in a mall or other highly visible area, selling your books. Even if you don’t sell too many, people will see your books and browse them. In the worst-case scenario where you don’t sell any, you have a cool picture to post on your author page, blog, and all over the internet.
  • Think of all the advertising in sports: ballcaps, towels, golf tees and markers, wristbands, duffel bags, etc. You could have your book on one of these, advertising your own product instead of some big business. If your book relates to that sport, even better. People might even want one of their own.
  • I was watching a MLB game once where during the game the announcer mentioned a book that a fan had sent him and they showed pages of the book on the air. It had pictures of a fan’s collection of baseball memorabilia. If you send your product to a t.v. announcer, it probably won’t get aired, but if it does, that’s some major publicity. In the more likely case where it doesn’t get aired, it might still get read or mentioned to other people.
  • Don’t forget, it’s not just sight, there is also sound. People don’t just see your book, they can also hear about it. When you interact with people, let them discover that you’re an author and inquire about your book.
  • Imagine eating a peaceful dinner with your family. The phone rings. Telemarketer, of course. An author telling you all about his book. Yeah, this probably isn’t cost-effective for most authors, and might be rather irksome.
  • A less disruptive, more effective way to create book publicity is to get your book in the news. Prepare a professional-looking press release kit and contact newspapers and radio stations, for example. Start small and local. Many local papers have column inches to fill and like to highlight local talent; a small, local radio station might need to fill minutes. You can look for book reviews or interviews. You can also think of what else might make you newsworthy and let you plug your book.
  • Online, you can show your book cover and author photo and mention your book on all your sites. You can interact with your target audience at other sites and let them discover that you’re an author.
  • Write an article relevant for your target audience. Try to get it published in a newspaper or magazine, or a website online. There are so many websites online, that if you’re determined and your article is well-written and interesting, you have very good prospects. In the worst case, you can still post your article on your blog, so it won’t go to waste. Get your article posted where there is significant traffic from your target audience and you might get some healthy traffic to your book. At the end of the article, write Your Name, Author of Your Book.
  • There are many advertising opportunities online. The big question is whether or not it will be cost-effective. You can spend as little as about $5 a day and try to match your book with readers in your target audience at Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter, for example. The click-through rate is pretty small these days, less than a percent on average; and of the products and services offered, a book by an unknown author probably won’t attract much attention this way.
  • If you really want to invest big, you can spend $10,000 or more advertising your book or series of books online. For example, that’s the starting amount to advertise a book through Amazon’s marketing department. This is for a professional campaign for highly marketable books, for authors with multiple books. Even then, you might not recover the investment after a couple million shoppers see your book over the course of a month.  The publishers and authors who use this service may have other objectives that may offset an initial loss, such as the hope of getting on a coveted bestseller list or stimulating initial sales and reviews for a new series. This is a huge risk for a new author, as the worst-case scenario is virtually no sales; there are no guarantees.
  • A more cost-effective way to advertise may be to run a short-term promotion and promote the sale through a service like BookBub. You can find a sample list here.


It’s not just about marketing. It’s also about marketability. Do you have a book that readers will really enjoy? Do you have a book that has a significant audience? It can be a niche audience, as long as it’s significant and you can reach your audience effectively. Do you have a cover that will attract your specific target audience? Do you have a blurb that will make your target audience want to look inside? Does the look inside grab the reader’s attention and make him or her want to buy your book? Is your content good enough to get referrals, reviews, and recommendations? Will the editing and formatting satisfy the target audience?

If your cover isn’t appealing, or if your cover attracts the wrong audience, or if the blurb doesn’t make the reader curious, or if the look inside doesn’t attract the reader, or if the story doesn’t satisfy the reader, or if the reader finds many mistakes, or if there isn’t a significant audience for your book… then the first thing you need to do is improve your book’s marketability. You’re not ready to start marketing your book yet.

For an in-depth discussion of marketability, click here.

Target Audience

With any marketing and advertising, you need to gear it toward your specific target audience for it to be effective. Marketing efforts that reach your specific target audience effectively can do wonders for a highly marketable book. Spend time thinking about the characteristics and habits of your target audience. Interact with fans; direct them to your email, blog, or fan page. The more you interact with fans, the better you will understand the variety of people who enjoy your book.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The easy thing to calculate is cost. If you invest in an advertisement or service, you can easily estimate how much you’re paying. Remember, time is money, too. If you’re spending hours marketing your book, this is costing you even if it’s free.

The hard thing to calculate is the benefit. It’s not easy to predict what impact your marketing effort will have on sales. If you do some new marketing, you can try to see if it’s improving sales compared to your average, but there are many complications (like maybe Amazon also made changes to customers also bought lists at about the same time, or maybe you got a few new reviews).

There are also many valuable benefits besides immediate sales. Most marketing requires patience, on the scale of many months. Branding takes time. People don’t run out and buy products immediately when they see an advertisement. The might see an advertisement a few different times over the course of months, then one day when they are shopping for that product, they see one that was advertised and recognize it. Things like branding really complicate the figuring of benefits in a cost-benefit analysis. Branding is highly important, but difficult to predict, and a challenge to calculate after a couple of years.

Nonetheless, you should be weighing costs and benefits with all of your marketing.

Author Image

If you’re trying something creative, ask yourself how it might impact your image as an author. You want to be viewed as a professional author. An author’s brand is difficult to establish, but very easy to destroy.

Chris McMullen

I have a Ph.D. in physics, but don’t let that scare you. I love to read and write. If you just look around my blog or at the books I’ve published, you’ll see that I love to write. I’ve come to understand and appreciate the marketing aspect, too. I didn’t like it when I first started publishing, back when I naively thought marketing meant salesmanship and advertising. Now that I realize that marketing is more about branding, showing that you’re a person and not a name, and letting your target audience discover your passion—and more meaningful and subtle things like these—I’ve come to enjoy it. I hope to reveal the enjoyable and fascinating side of marketing—the parts that aren’t so obvious—to other authors. Focus on this side of marketing, and you may find yourself more motivated to do it, the process more rewarding, and hopefully better long-term results.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

The Cheer of the Naysayers


The critics stand on the sidelines, watching over our shoulders.

They tell us what can’t be done.

They explain why it won’t work.

They describe what’s wrong.

They can’t wait to tell us, “I told you so.”

What satisfaction those four words will bring to them!

In the meantime, we generate ideas.

We carry our ideas out, transforming our dreams into reality.

We do our best to ignore the critics.

Our results are feeble at first.

The critics are smug about how right they were.

But we gain experience and wisdom for our mistakes.

We try again and again and again, better each time.

We become a little better known, start to make names for ourselves.

Eventually, people begin to recognize and appreciate our efforts.

We find ourselves starting to accomplish what was said couldn’t be done.

Then we realize that the advantage was ours all along.

Only those who have ideas can carry them out.

Only those who try to carry them out can accomplish anything.

Only those who work hard can get meaningful results.

Those who stand on the sideline to criticize are the only ones who CAN’T achieve.

The best they can hope for is to discourage those who otherwise could have achieved.

What kind of life is that?

(You can learn a lot from Nike’s slogan.)

A Yaysayer

I’m Chris McMullen, and I’m a yaysayer. You can do it. It might take hard work. It might require some learning and research. You will probably make mistakes. Hopefully, you will learn from them. You can improve in time. Things may start out very slowly at first, but you can grow in time. The first step is self-belief. The second step is self-motivated diligence. If you wish to achieve, you must do what the naysayers say you can’t do and what the naysayers themselves don’t do. Be a yaysayer. Be a doer. 🙂

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing, and to provide encouragement and motivation to authors. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers