Self-Publishing Tips

If you are self-publishing your book, you are your own marketing department. Like it or loathe it, nobody but you will be plugging your book (unless you have really good, dedicated friends). I am a poor (as in, penniless; not as in “bad”) author. But I have found, through necessity, low-cost or free means to promote my novels.

​As a poor (again, not as in “two-bit”) songwriter, I learned through the years ways to plug my band’s music. Through trial and error and some unfortunate choices, my days and nights of mouse clicks endowed me with a savvy understanding of the most efficient ways to glide across the web. From 2006 onward, I spent dollars I couldn’t afford to spend, essentially for naught. The good news is, selling books is fundamentally easier than trying to convince someone to purchase a song. Trust me. But the principles that apply to plugging music can be readily adapted to the business of book-selling. As an author who truly believes in your art, your conviction alone, sadly, won’t suffice. Art and commerce are strange bedfellows, but the commerce part demands to be served.

​Henceforth are the life lessons I’ve learned. Take one from column A and one from column B, or mix them up, or choose all of them. Feel free to add your own seasonings. 


Let’s start with the basics:

Self-Publishing For $0.00 - $30.00

If you’re thinking about self-publishing, you’ve probably already done some research.

Amazon is by far the platform of choice for authors because everyone peruses Amazon. But it’s not the only avenue. Try Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play.

Smashwords,now partnered with Draft2Digital, is a book aggregator (there are others, like BookBaby, but Smashwords/Draft2Digital is free), meaning it will distribute your books to the major retailers, such as Amazon, B&N, iBooks, etc. It also will sell your books directly, and it allows you to enable free downloading of excerpts.

You can also use each individual retailer's upload process, but some of them are more user friendly than others. I find Apple's interface extremely frustrating to maneuver through.

The reason I prefer Amazon's KDP service is that, unlike Draft2Digital, if an author formats his manuscript with KindleCreate, he can include rather important elements, like a title page, a copyright page, an author bio, and links to his other books. Draft2Digital doesn't allow any of these. If you want to cast a wide net, though, a book aggregator is the way to go. Just bear in mind that if you enroll in KDP Select, your book needs to be exclusive to Amazon.


Don’t pay someone to format your book. For my very first book (a memoir that I’ve since withdrawn from the Amazon catalog), I hired a formatter. The result was less than desirable, and I didn’t realize I could do it myself, and better! Amazon offers a wonderful app for formatting, Kindle Create, which turns out to be simple and intuitive. Save yourself unnecessary headaches and download it. Once you've configured your novel in the app, you will be able to preview how it will look to Kindle readers. You can then upload your book directly from your Kindle Create file.

If you run into issues or have a burning question that the app doesn’t resolve, visit the kboards. I find people to be eager to share what they’ve learned.

Cover Creation

Amazon offers handy-dandy cover creation software. The trouble is, the covers end up looking cheesy. I think for one of my novels I ended up with a lime green interface that screamed home-made!

Four options:

Find some free photo editing software on the web (there are tons, trust me) and play around with it to see if it works for you. I downloaded four or five apps that I ended up hating and uninstalling. They all claimed to be intuitive, but they were definitely not. I don’t have enough spare hours or patience to deplete poring over tutorials. But if you decide to go that route, choose a nice image from Pixabay and fiddle around with fonts until you are supremely satisfied. Your PC (or Mac) also has a built-in, albeit rudimentary, photo editing program.

Canva: Canva will cost you zero $$ to create your own book cover if you take advantage of their free 30-day trial. Play around - upload photos or utilize the site's vast array of images, which include Pixabay's selections, my go-to site for free to use photography. Arrange, rearrange, experiment with fonts and font sizes. Once you settle on a cover that pleases you, download it to your computer. I found Canva to be so valuable, I purchased a paid subscription.

Photos are also quite reasonable via iStock, if you are unable to find a suitable image elsewhere. They generally run discounts, and I found just the right image I needed for one of my books for $9.60.

AI: As a writer, I'm philosophically opposed to AI-generated prose. However, you can create nice book covers by employing AI. If you use a Microsoft browser, such as Edge or Bing, Bing Copilot is readily available on your sidebar. I used Copilot to create a cover (for a book written under a different pen name), and I asked it to tweak the photo until I was satisfied with it.

Fiverr: Fiverr has a clutch of graphic artists salivating to claim your business. Set up an account and post your needs. You’ll immediately receive ten to twenty bids. Check out their posted work. Message those who strike your fancy. Every one of them will work with you. If you want modifications, tell them. I've gone with five-star rated artists a couple of times in the past, and to be frank, while the interactions were pleasant, the artists and I couldn't seem to come to a melding of the minds. I scrapped the first two covers I paid for and created my own instead.

Be aware, too, that money talks. If you’re okay with stock footage, you can land a cover for five-to-ten dollars. If you want something with a bit more “pop”, you could spend far upwards of $25.00 - $30.00 (I did not spend more than that). The most money I spent in my self-publishing journey was on a book cover. But think about it – what catches a potential buyer’s eye? Yep, an intriguing image. You’re competing with professional publishing houses, after all.



Let's start with the basics. Where do I go to upload my book?

First you need to establish your bookshelf (this page will guide you through the process). 

Book Description

Your book description will appear below your cover image on Amazon, so you'll want to make it interesting; intriguing. A book description is like an agent query, in that it includes the inciting incident, but does not include the resolution! If you give everything away, why would anyone be tempted to read your book?


You can choose up to three categories (genres). The choices have recently been honed, so I can now place my books in the Women's Fiction category, whereas I used to be stuck with general fiction. If you are writing in one of the most popular genres, it will certainly be listed as a choice. 


The Kindle guide will also steer you toward proper pricing. You will want to price your book according to its worth – one bazillion dollars – but realistically, you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Start with the suggested minimum. If you are a smash hit, you can always raise the price.

You can also choose your royalty percentage (35% or 70%). Here is a site that explains the differences.


KDP will ask you to include up to seven keywords. If you don't have funds for advertising (I don't!) keywords are vital for driving customers to your book.

Choosing keywords is a rather opaque process. I've searched for free keyword generators and have yet to find one that is truly free. Some offer a seven-day free trial, but I refuse to hand over my credit card info to an unfamiliar site, one that may or may not be useful.

Your best truly free option is to enter your possible keywords in the Amazon search function (click on the Kindle Store category, then type in a keyword without hitting enter. The dropdown box will show common searches related to that word. If there are none, you probably don't want to use that word.

Keywords don't have to be a single word, either. For example, one common suggestion is "strong female character". That phrase counts as one keyword.

KDP Select

If you choose to enroll in KDP Select, you cannot offer your book for sale on any other sites, such as Barnes and Noble. There are some potential benefits to enrolling, one of which is receiving a potential payout from the KDP Select Global Fund, which is based on the number of pages read by those who have a Kindle Unlimited membership. You can find the details here

Once you’ve uploaded your book to KDP, sit back and revel in your accomplishment. Click on the link a couple thousand times and know that you did it.

Author Page

Create an author page on Amazon. Establish an intriguing aura. Hey, as an author, you can depict yourself the way you envision you. Celebrate yourself. If you don’t do it, who will?

Once you feel confident with your Kindle upload, continue on to the other sites if you choose. Everything is scary the first time you do it, but soon it will become natural.


When one thinks of online marketing, the first sites that come to mind are probably Facebook (Meta), Instagram, and possibly Twitter (X). I initially explored the cost of a Facebook ad, but found it well outside my budget. Twitter, if you can believe it, is even more expensive. I won't offer links to these, since I haven't utilized them and therefore can't speak with any authority. If you feel, however, that these sites will potentially offer a good ROI, Google their individual costs. 

However, there are a few other options out there you can try:


KDP offers a couple of promotional options. You may or may not choose to involve yourself in these:


This promotion offers a reduced price offering for the length of time you designate. To participate, your title must have been enrolled in KDP for at least 30 days. I have participated in one of two of these in the past, and in my experience it's not particularly useful. That could well be because I set the initial price of my books low to begin with, so I don't have much of a bargain to offer.


Naturally, a free book promotion's aim is to gain readership. Ideally if a reader acquires your book for free, they will want to read more of your catalog. A secondary aim is to garner reviews. Since I am honest and not a cheerleader, I will state that based on my experience, my free book promotions have resulted in zero new readers and zero reviews. Bear in mind that Amazon has millions upon millions of books on display, a good chunk of those with big-budget publishing houses behind them. A free book promotion is well, free, so try it out. It may well work for you.


KENP stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages. Readers who are subscribed to Kindle Unlimited have access to several million digital books. When a Kindle Unlimited member reads any pages of your book, you are paid a percentage of the monthly KDP global fund. See the details here. Unless you are a wildly successful author, your payout is minimal, but it is a payout nevertheless.

Get your book uploaded to Goodreads. Goodreads is the site of choice for those who are dedicated readers. There are other sites, but I have had little to no experience with them, and be aware that some charge authors to upload their books. But do research all the venues available. You may find one or more that works for your purposes. I have found Goodreads to be the most author-and upload-friendly. Book giveaways are a great tool; unfortunately Goodreads (which was acquired by Amazon) now charges $119.00 to run a giveaway! I am just not willing to pay that much for publicity.

BookBub is probably the biggest marketing venue. BookBub issues a newsletter to its members that will include your self-created ad. You can choose to spend as little or as much for page impressions as you choose, starting as low as $1.00 per day (but I wouldn't). A tiny budget will reap tiny results. If you want to explore this option, set up an account on BookBub and get your book(s) added (a simple URL copy and paste task). I've gotten very good results on free book offerings with a fifteen-dollar advertising budget and I am about to explore running an ad for a reduced-price book. Setting up an ad is simple -- the site leads you through it and it does let you target your ad to readers of your genre, as well as similar authors.

Bargain Booksy offers ads for a not outrageous price, depending on your genre. There is also Free Booksy if you are interested in offering your book for free for a period of time. This option probably works best for new releases, to garner buzz.

The Fussy Librarian is another reasonable option. This site offers more specific genres than some of the others.

Be aware that ads are a definite crapshoot. My limited experience with these sites, except for BookBub, has been disappointing. However, I do not write in one of the best-selling genres, so your results could be wildly successful.

Marketing Assistance

By far, the best marketing blog I’ve found is published by David Gaughran. All of his expertise is free and it’s good! He even includes instructional YouTube videos. I strongly recommend it.

Make Social Media Your Friend

I’m not a fan of Facebook for personal use, but I do find my author page beneficial. I’ve gotten interview requests via Facebook, and the interactivity is robust. You can ask questions of fellow writers and receive a variety of responses (and not feel stupid). 

Here is what I learned about Facebook author pages: You don’t need to claim a brand-new email address just so you can create an author page. Just drift on over to the page you most likely already have (you know, the one you maintain so you can wish a Happy Birthday to all your third cousins), click on the little down arrow on the header bar (next to the "?") and choose, “Create Page”. Set it up however you want. If you use a pen name, that works, too.

I try to update my Facebook author page daily (try!) One doesn’t need something pithy to say. In fact, I’m a big fan of memes, mostly related to writing, of course, but sometimes I simply post a nice photo that’s related to one of my books. Where do I find these? Pinterest has tons (more about Pinterest later). Posting on your Facebook author page regularly tells people you are engaged, and they are all the more likely to engage with you.

​When it comes to Twitter (X), if you are an aficionado, I advise having two accounts, one for fun and one dedicated to your writing. I write under a pen name, so I use that for my "writing" account. (I also have an email address set up specifically for that purpose.) If you hate Twitter, then just set up an author account. In your bio, be sure to indicate that you are an author (of whatever genre). You’ll be surprised how many like-minded folks will find you and follow you. Then search for people you like/admire and follow them. Or search for “authors” and follow the ones who sound intriguing. There are also several writing groups on Twitter’s “Communities” tab. Or search the hashtag #writingcommunity. Then – INTERACT. Don’t spam people by promoting your novel in every tweet. That’s a sure way to lose followers. I fast-forward through commercials on my DVR. That same principle applies to Twitter. People hate the hard-sell. Be a real person.

Comment on other’s tweets, or at least 🧡 them. You may even want to re-tweet the ones you particularly like. I purchased another self-published author's book as a way of saying "thank you" for re-tweeting me. And it was awesome! 

Be realistic, however. If you are only interacting with other authors, most of them, of course, want to sell their own books—not purchase yours. It’s good practice to broaden your horizons.

Advice:  If you’re political (as I truly am), keep politics out of Twitter or use your other account to offer snark. I never understood those artists who freely alienate half their potential audience. Book-selling is a business. I can’t afford to lose a sale because I’m an idiot who can’t keep her opinions to herself.

Pinterest: I used to regard Pinterest as a personal scrapbook, and frankly I rarely used it. I did, however, read a writing group post from an author who stated that she derives most of her reader engagement from the site. I now have a free business account and a specific pin to display (and describe) my books, as well as those usual “scrapbook” pages. I also have pins dedicated to writing and books, since a writer, after all, wants to target her potential audience.

Instagram: I confess, I’m just now dipping my toe into the Instagram waters. I’m a late adopter, but I feel every social media site is worth exploring. Since I’m a novice, I of course did a search for tips and found some wonderful ones here. The essence of Instagram is photos and video, and that can be a conundrum for an author who only wants to get her book in front of buying eyes and who doesn't like appearing on camera. With any social media platform, you have to offer something that draws people to your page. I have explored other authors’ pages, and their creativity is amazing and inspiring. We writers are creative people, so let your imagination soar. Canva is a user-friendly app that helps you design beautiful Instagram posts. Post a favorite quote or make up your own. Follow fellow writers. Search out book reviewers (there are tons of them) and start following. And it goes without saying that you will occasionally promote your book(s). Just don't forget to engage.

LinkedIn: I always considered LinkedIn to be a job search site, but many, many authors use it as one of their social media landing pages. Setting up an author account on LinkedIn is not completely transparent, but if you already have a profile, you can add writerly keywords to your skills and experience. Most relevant, you can add images of your book covers and links to your books by navigating to your profile and clicking on the "Recommended" section, then "Add Featured". Choose "Media", which will allow you to upload images.


Create A YouTube Channel

If you have Windows 10, you have a Windows Moviemaker. If you don't, here is a site for downloading that wonderful sidekick. I've made tons of music videos for our band with Moviemaker. What I like about Moviemaker is that there is little to no learning curve. Plop some background music onto one line, add pictures or footage on another, add narration if you have a USB microphone, add titles and credits, drop in some effects or transitions, and voila!

UPDATE:  Microsoft's latest iteration of video editing software is called Clipchamp.  I have not yet tested it out, but give it a try if you're interested.

If, like me, you are too shy to plaster your face across the web, why not find some appropriate royalty-free music (do a Google search – there are tons of sites; plus YouTube even has its own audio library!)  I’m a stickler for not pilfering somebody else’s copyright. As a songwriter and as an author, I would not take kindly to someone stealing my words and/or music.

Beautiful royalty-free images can be found and downloaded at Pixabay. Add some relevant images to your video to fit the mood; maybe splash some intriguing snippets of text from your novel across the screen, add the appropriate mood music (also free from Pixabay), upload the finished video to YouTube and there you go. 

Don’t forget to add target keywords to your video description so viewers can easily find you.

I’m a huge believer in reciprocity, so go ahead and “like” videos from authors’ channels you admire and leave them a comment. Maybe they’ll like you back. Even if they don’t, you’ll no doubt find something you enjoy, and that’s always a bonus. There are many, many videos on YouTube from writers giving tutorials on all aspects of the writing process. Subscribe to these channels, sit back and absorb. iWriterly is one of my favorites.

Oh, one more thing about your book trailer:  Add a title credit at the end, listing where your book can be purchased. Add it to your video description as well. People need to know where to find you!

​Don't forget to add your awesome video to your Amazon Author Central page, and to your website and your Facebook page. Shoot, go ahead and tweet it out, too.


Author Website

Obviously, I have a website. That’s where you are reading these tips. And it doesn't cost me a penny, except for my domain name. If I hadn’t found access to a free hosting site, I wouldn’t have bothered. Honestly, how does one drive traffic to an unknown site? If you don’t already have a web presence, it’s a losing proposition. But if you use all the tips above, well, maybe…

P.S. I recently found an easy-to-use free site for creating mockups of your books. Mockups can look more professional than a flat rectangular image. It all depends upon the vibe you want to portray. The site is called DIY Book Covers. Find it here.



Use Blogger. Yes, Blogger is primarily used to well, blog, but did you know you can also set up your account as a website? Find step-by-step instructions here. Then attach your custom domain to it. 

You can purchase a domain name from Namecheap, my favorite, for about $10.00 a year. Many people use GoDaddy, but be aware that if you have problems connecting your website to your newly-purchased domain, GoDaddy's customer service is less than helpful, whereas Namecheap is exceedingly accommodating. 

If you have a very common name (like my real name is) and you don’t use a pen name for your writing (like I do), be prepared to choose a domain name that is not exactly what you might want. All registrar sites will offer suggestions if your chosen domain is taken. Given the option, pick one that ends in “com”, because everybody automatically assumes that every domain ends in those three letters. Our band site extension is “biz”, because that was the only available option that included our band name. I’ve always hated it. The internet wizards need to come up with some more appropriate domain extensions. Fortunately, that list has expanded in recent years.

I’m sort of dumb in the ways of turning a personalized website dynamic. People like visuals. Just as soon as I create one of those vaunted YouTube book trailers I have espoused above, I will slap it on this site and magic will ensue. But seriously, for approximately $10.00 a year (to purchase and maintain a domain), why not? It establishes you, the author, as “someone”. It immediately confers a cachet.

Author Newsletter

Once you've established a list of subscribers, you may want to try Mailerlite for sending newsletters. For authors with fewer than 1,000 subscribers Mailerlite is free*, and importing subscriber emails is as simple as any site I've found.  

*Be forewarned that after your first 30 days of joining MailerLite, you are no longer presented with free customizable templates. In order to utilize these, you will be required to upgrade to a paid plan. However, the blank template can be easily formatted.

Pen Names

​Obviously I use a pen name. Why? Primarily because I like to keep my personal life separate from my other endeavors. There are myriad reasons why an author may choose to write under a pseudonym, and you've probably heard them all ~ writing in more than one genre, their chosen category is dominated by writers of the opposite gender (a man writing romance novels, for example), privacy concerns, et cetera. Choosing a pen name isn't necessarily a straight-forward process, however. My main concern was the prevalence of any particular name I was considering. I came up with a few possibilities and Googled them. I also wanted the same number of syllables for both my first and last names (there's that songwriting gene again). "April" has some significance for me, and that only left me to play around with a few surnames (that's where Google became a valuable tool for elimination).

​Many authors also use their first and middle initials in combination with their last name, especially if they don't want a gender-specific pen name.


“Do I need a blog?”

Sure, if it’s something you like doing.

I am a dedicated blogger. I essentially add a blog post once or twice a week, and I’ve done it religiously since 2007. Blog posts are short – novels are staggeringly long. Blogging is my exhale.

But if you blog, you need to have something to say. My blog is about music and life. It has no connection to my other life as an author. I link to my books and to my author website, but it lives its own life. 

Lots of people swear by WordPress, but I could never figure out its buttons and bells and whistles. I most likely have the start of a blog on WordPress, but I ultimately abandoned it. I am a Blogger user. It’s so easy, I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves through the torture of figuring out the WordPress interface. (You will get lots of haughty arguments about how WordPress is far superior. To each her own.)

I advise attaching your blog, whichever platform you choose, to a dedicated domain name. Google lets you do that relatively easily. It creates a more professional presence.

Also, don’t devote your blog to book-plugging. You’ve got something else you’re passionate about. Blog about that. If you want to blog about writing, cool. Write about your process or your journey as an indie author. My blogging enjoyment emanates from writing about anything but writing. We're all different.

Blogs don’t provide a good return for the effort. How does one find your blog? By accident? Keywords may help, but as a means for book promotion, it is hardly effective. That’s why I say, blog if you like blogging. Sometimes blogging is a stress reliever from the often tedious process of tumbling words onto the screen from Chapter Nineteen that you’ll only end up backspacing and deleting.

UPDATE: I recently added a Blog page to my website. Now all I need to do is come up with interesting content for it.

Speaking of blogs, some authors swear by blog tours. It’s apparently a thing. Be aware, however, that blog tours are not free. In fact, they have essentially priced me out of the market. If it’s an avenue you would like to explore, Google is your friend.

Seek Out Reviews

There are (free) sites that review self-published books. Please don’t ever pay for a review! Savvy readers will spot a paid review immediately and your stellar reputation will be tarnished. And it’s kind of sleazy. Here is a comprehensive list of book reviewers for all genres, courtesy of BookSirens.

Book Contests

Don't pay to enter a book contest. A well-known site just sent me an email to enter their latest contest, which "only" costs $99.00 to enter in one genre and $65.00 for subsequent genres. Yes, book contests reap large rewards ~ for those hosting the contest. I entered a songwriting contest once. I think it cost something like $20.00 to enter, and the judges were musical giants (i.e., they either let their minions handle the judging duties or got paid for lending their name to the competition. I won an honorable mention* and a badge I could add to my website.* 

​*Everyone who entered doubtless "won" an honorable mention.

​Paid book contests are bogus. They're akin to the "IRS" calling you to demand money. Avoid this scam.

With the exception of a custom domain, the only thing the above suggestions will cost you is time. Be prepared to devote lots of time to promoting your work. As a self-published author, your sales depend on you and you alone, unless you have awesome friends who have nothing better to do than plug your wares. But your friends actually have lives and you don’t want to be a needy jerk.

Writing Assistance

​Ever have those pesky little questions, such as, “How many spaces after a period?”* Seriously, I had that question. I came of age in the era before word processing programs, so I was using typewriter rules. Or, “What’s the difference between third person and third person omniscient?” “How do I know what genre my novel is?”

*The answer, in case you were wondering, is one.

​Answers to these questions and every conceivable question under the sun can be found at the Absolute Write forums. Absolute Write is the best and most active online community of writers. If you are seeking feedback on any topic related to writing, you will get answers almost immediately. It’s not like one of those sites that have five active members, like some of the songwriter forums that I no longer visit. If you are seeking a vibrant community of like-minded folks, Absolute Write is the place to be. 

For everything related to self-publishing, or simply for a sense of community, I also recommend the kboards, which are unerringly cordial.

​There are other writers’ forums as well, such as Writing, Scribophile, and Critique Circle. Dabble as you wish. 

PurdueOwl is the go-to authority on all aspects of writing. Grammar and spelling questions are addressed here (trust me, you can’t rely on Microsoft Word – it wants you to do things that you feel a bit queasy about, but you trust them, know, Bill Gates and all. Don’t.), as well as strange terms that you learned in seventh grade English class, but have since forgotten, like “appositives” and “relative pronouns”.

Grammar Girl provides information on everything from relationships to pets to technology.

Daily Writing Tips is kind of fun and you will learn things you didn’t even think you needed to know.


Do You Need To Hire An Editor?


For a 60,000-word book, a good book editor will cost you:

​Developmental editing (structure, cohesiveness, focus) : $.08 per word, or $4,800.00 total

Basic copy editing (grammar, clarity, spelling): $.018 per word, or $1,080.00 total

And how do you identify a good editor? What indie writer has that amount of cash lying around? Not me!

What you can do:

​Among your acquaintances, identify an avid reader of your genre and ask them if they’ll read your manuscript.

Trade! Lots of writing forums have a section for requesting/offering “beta” reads. It’s a lot to ask of someone’s time to read and give feedback on someone’s novel, so be gracious and offer reciprocity.

Develop a set of questions to ask your reader, such as, could you identify with the main character, did the story flow well? What didn’t you like about the story? What was confusing?

Consider the feedback you get carefully. If you have multiple beta readers, you will no doubt receive conflicting opinions. YOU are the arbiter of the finished product. Do, however, consider take your readers’ impressions seriously. These folks represent your potential readership.

I’m a believer that the author should be able to detect and correct any grammatical and spelling errors. Just don’t rely exclusively on Word’s suggestions. Print out your manuscript if necessary and take a yellow highlighter in hand. Nothing turns off a potential customer more than an Amazon “look inside” preview riddled with spelling and formatting errors. If you’re serious about gaining readers (and of course you are), take as much time as necessary to scour your manuscript; scores of times if you need to; and ensure it’s perfect.

Book Research

Odd questions are going to arise as you are writing your novel. I advise creating a folder called “Book Research” and adding to it the best resources you find. You’ll probably need them again.

Some of my most used sites for naming characters:

The Social Security List of Baby Names and Surnames By Country of Origin and Baby Names.

Here is a cheat sheet for gesture descriptions. (Trust me; you’ll get sick of writing, “She paced the sidewalk.”  My characters tend to pace a lot. And sometimes they shrug.)

And speaking of overused words, the best online thesauruses I’ve found are Power Thesaurus and wordhippo. Don’t bother with the others. They offer maybe twelve options. Power Thesaurus gives you approximately ninety-nine for every word. Wordhippo offers fewer, but its suggestions are relevant; not mundane and off-topic.

If you’re writing about another era, like I did with “Once In A Blue Moon”, or adding an element to your story you know nothing about (say, for example, the wheat harvest in the upper Midwest in 1955), and you’re not some kind of savant, you’ll need to research all kinds of things you never, ever thought you’d ever look up. I wonder sometimes what the FBI would think if they perused my browsing history. I’m hoping that occasion never arises, but they would logically conclude that I’m researching ways to “off” someone. (I’m honestly not.)

​Save those valuable sites to your “Book Research” folder. You’ll most likely revisit them.

Writing Blogs

​I’m either impatient or time-deficient, or most likely both. I like articles that get to the heart of the matter. When I peruse my favorite news site, I find myself skimming its long articles and honing in on the key points. Then I move on. My off-time reading is for pleasure; my “business” reading is for learning. Thus, if I want writing or publishing tips, I appreciate brief but cogent essays.

The Bookbaby Blog fits that bill. Bookbaby is a company that will print and edit your physical book or convert your file to an ebook and “distribute” it. All the electronic stuff you can do for free, and I haven’t grasped the concept of having printed books produced. How would I sell them – out of the trunk of my car? Barnes & Noble isn’t exactly clamoring to stock their shelves with my latest novel.

You, however, may want physical books available to sell through your website. If you desire printed books and don’t have a printing press in your basement, you may be interested in Bookbaby’s services. Or Createspace.

I first became aware of Bookbaby because our band was looking for place to sell our music, and we went with CDbaby. Then we discovered we needed a web hosting/creation site devoted to musicians, and I ultimately chose Hostbaby. (There are tons of “baby”offshoots).

My long-winded point is, the Bookbaby Blog has loads of nice little articles devoted to writing and marketing. And you can read ten posts in approximately ten minutes (my self-imposed cut-off).

​Another site that offers semi-frequent email tips is ProWritingAid. Of course the site wants to sell its products, but I signed up for free and its friendly prompts remind me I should be writing, plus the blog posts cover everything from social media to planning a novel.

​Books On Writing

I’ve written my whole life ~ little stories when I was kid; my memoirs (a whole ten pages) when I was in my twenties; ink neatly floated onto the lined pages of a bound journal. But I never seriously wrote until I dipped my toe into the shivery world of songwriting. (That skill does not translate to writing prose, unfortunately, unless one wants to write a novel that takes three and a half minutes to read.)

What songwriting does, however, is force one to mentally outline. 

The story (or song) needs an opening, what the character wants, the stakes, and the resolution.

My song, Heartview, written as a tribute to my dad and his ultimate acceptance of sobriety, inadvertently follows this form:

 The opening:

 Is this a church or a prison?

The windows aren’t stained

What the character wants:

Admit you’re powerless

The stakes:

Accept what you can’t change 

Recognize the difference 

You’re not a prisoner  

Unless you choose it 

The resolution:

But the angels sing 

Oh, the angels sing

I, of course, didn’t know I was following the steps for writing prose when I scribbled my little songs and plunked them out on my acoustic guitar. But before any of this ever happened in my life, I picked up a nice writing book at my local independent bookstore, called On Writing by Stephen King. I propped myself up on two pillows and devoured the book. I guess it takes a good writer to write a captivating book about writing.

My most vivid takeaway from Mr. King’s book is the chapter on adverbs. New writers are swept off their feet by adverbs:  funnily, swiftly, determinedly. Don’t do it! Find an action verb that annihilates the crutch of ly’s.

I wish I could list more book recommendations, but Stephen King’s is honestly the only good book I’ve read about the craft of writing (and I’ve read a few).


Bottom Line ~ Be Realistic and Set A Budget

I don't have a lot of (okay, any) disposable income, but I rather like DIY. My imagination costs $0.00, and I do everything else myself that I am reasonably proficient in. I generally design my own covers using Canva, but, of course, you can easily hire a graphic artist. I am no expert on the relative value of DIY versus "professionally designed". I just know that I like my own much more than any I've paid a designer for. 

I can't design websites (thus, my Blogger site), but one can always go with a hosting service. Some of the most reasonably priced and highly rated (I've checked) are Hostinger and Bluehost. I personally would advise against Wix (laggy when applying updates and hardly intuitive) and GoDaddy (again, difficult to work with and understand).

The cost of publishing and promoting my works runs from $0.00-$30.00 (for cover design). I purchased a domain name for $10.00 a year, and that's it. Social media is free. So, $10.00-$30.00 total. I've also bought a couple of ads through Bargain Booksy and BookBub over the course of my nine years of writing.

If you are doing the backstroke in $100-dollar bills, go wild! If, however, you are looking for a return on your investment, DIY is my recommendation. Start small ~ see how your sales progress and adjust your budget accordingly.

My Recommendations

The following are companies I am happy to recommend, based on my experiences with them. I am not hesitant to criticize enterprises that don't live up to their advertised promises or who fail to deliver a satisfactory customer experience (which includes ease of use). These have provided tremendous value to me:

Book Cover Creator: Canva

Book Formatting: Createspace

Domain Registrar: Namecheap

Marketing Blog: David Gaughran


A Final Word

If your goal is to sell a lot of books, be aware that this will not happen organically. Book marketing is truly the hardest job an independent author has. And marketing, as well as reviews, is key to selling. I self-published my first two novels in 2016, and in my naivete, I assumed they'd fly off the digital shelf. Nothing happened. What I needed was buyers and hopefully those buyers would leave reviews. It took a very long time. Bottom line, to become successful, you have to keep at it. Search out all avenues to get your book(s) in front of eyes. It might not happen right away, but eventually readers will start to recognize you and begin to pick up your books.

Happy writing! And send me a link to your published work. I'm an indie-author aficionado.


***Some links may no longer be functional. For that, I apologize. It's difficult to keep up! 


© April Tompkins