After years of writing, I’ve learned a very strange thing about myself: when I feel like garbage, a story isn’t working, and I know it needs a lot of work before it’s “done,” the absolute worst, most demoralizing thing I can think is “but imagine what it’ll be like when it’s published!”

Yes, demoralizing. It makes me want to quit. It makes me want to wallow. It is the most depressing, most frustrating, most upsetting thing I can think of.

Why? Well, let’s dive into my psyche. I might just be hyper-sensitive and neurotic (I probably am, actually), but hey! Maybe you work the same way.

The problem with focusing on big successes is that they don’t always happen.

Here’s the long and short of it: when I’m depressed about writing, dreaming about a wonderful future where I’m a successful author doesn’t help, because:

  • That success is far away.
  • Achieving that success requires me to not be depressed.
  • I still have to put in dozens (or hundreds!) of hours of work to get to that point.
  • It’s extremely common to write something and have it never sell anywhere, or never find an agent, or never find a publisher.
  • Even if you self-publish, it’s extremely common for you to put out a book and have it receive middling-to-non-existant sales.

Which means that if I’m anxious or depressed, dreaming about eventual success is poison. I can guarantee you that my mind is not going to say “Don’t worry! You’re worried now, but you’re going to feel great when you succeed!”

No. My mind is a jerk. It thinks evil things. It’s going to say, “Imagine what it’ll be like if you never publish this story at all, and the 6 months of work you put into this was wasted because you got stuck right now and you never got over it!”

So, uh, that’s bad.

The solution: focus on very, very small wins.

So what does work when I’m deep in a pit? Celebrating small successes like:

  • You wrote today! You haven’t written for a week or so, so THIS IS GREAT. Hurray!
  • You wrote 1,000 words! That’s super fantastic!
  • You accomplished something! Accomplishing something feels good, right? Don’t you want to feel like this a lot? Remember this feeling!
  • Write a to-do list, where the task for every single day is “Just write anything.” Cross off today! CROSSING OFF STUFF FEELS GREAT
  • Good golly, did you finish a chapter?! One down! WOO!
  • You sent a query! Cross that off your QueryTracker list! Who cares if they ever respond? You did your side of the work, which is writing a good query and sending it out. DONE. YOU SUCCEEDED. HURRAY.

OK, so these sound cheesy. They are, really. Believe me, I know. I can’t sincerely throw myself a party for writing 1,000 words, either.

But I do feel genuinely content when I finish something. So that’s what I focus on: the small, nice feeling of accomplishing anything.

So here’s my takeaway: when I’m most depressed, I need to accomplish something.

That’s basically it.

“Hey, maybe you’ll sell this book someday” is not something that I can do in a weekend to snap me out of my slump. But I can do a tiny bit of work.

This stuff is not easy for me. When I feel bad, I want to second guess my accomplishments. “Yes, I wrote 1,000 words, but are they objectively good ones? Because maybe I’ll just have to write those words over again later, and this time was wasted!” or “I wrote a chapter, but there are 27 in this novel, so at this rate it’s still going to take me 3 months to finish this thing, at best!” I’m realllly not a very positive person, usually.

But you know what feels good? Accomplishing something. Accomplishing anything.

The only way I can drag myself out of depression is by accomplishing milestones. Little ones. Preferably ones I can accomplish every day. I won’t cheer myself up by thinking “You won’t feel like garbage 3 months from now, when you’re done!” I have to find something I’ll feel better about today. Now. Something like:

  • You sketched out notecards for every scene that’s working in your novel, up to the point where it isn’t
  • You brainstormed ideas for how to fix your current problems
  • You wrote a reasonable amount of content
  • You wrote something else, and it was fun and liberating
  • You read a book about writing and it gave you some ideas on how to fix your writing
  • You sat down and used your dedicated writing time for something writing-related for once, and you’re going to do it again tomorrow.

All of these are small victories, and you can do them today. They don’t require you to succeed at anything, or to complete a lot of work, or to fix everything. They’re just tiny baby steps you can do today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

It doesn’t always work, of course. But it’s better than clubbing yourself over the head with things you can’t do today.

I still get writer’s block. I seem to fall into a pit of depression about once a year, swear to give up writing forever, and stop writing for a week or two. It happens. And every time it happens, it feels like I’ll never drag myself out of it.

But I always get back on that horse and try again. And it’s never because I remembered that it’d be Really Super Amazing to get a TV show based on my novel. It’s always because I did something small, and writing felt possible again, and accomplishing something felt good, and I figured I should do that more often.

So, yes. Perspective shifts: helpful. Maybe they are for you, too?

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I spend an awful lot of time in Microsoft Word. It may not be the only word processing software out there, but there’s no denying that a lot of novels get written in it–and that a lot of people don’t know the useful things it can do.

So let’s talk about styles and how you, a novelist, can use them.

Styles are complicated and powerful, and while you don’t need to use many of them in a novel, they are good for:

  • Making your Word file easy to navigate, so you can jump with one click from chapter to chapter
  • Making it easy to create an ebook version of your file in Calibre
  • Quickly and easily changing font styles throughout the document.

Let’s get to it!

First thing’s first: what are styles?

Screenshot of the

“Styles” takes up about half of the “Home” tab in Microsoft Word. Here’s what it looks like.

“Styles” are, well, font styles. Let’s say you have a simple report, and you have three different font styles: a large 1st-level header for the title of every section, a smaller 2nd-level header for subheadings, and a “normal” font for all of the text. You want your 1st-level heading to be 20pt Arial font, black, and with a 6pt of spacing after every header, and your 2nd-level header to be 16pt Arial, blue.

Let’s say your report is 100 pages long and includes 30 1st-level headers and 60 2nd-level headers. You write the whole document. You’re done. Then, one day before the report’s due, you have to change it.  Both of your headers should be blue, the 1st-level header should be 18pt Times New Roman, and the 2nd-level should be 14pt. What do you do?

Well, if you manually formatted this document, you’d have to find all 90 of those headers and manually change them, one by one by one.

But if you had used styles, you wouldn’t have to do that.

Here’s what would have done: You would have gone to the “Heading 1” and “Heading 2” styles and made them look exactly the way you want it to. You would have set their size, color, spacing, borders–whatever.

Then you would have gone through the document. Every time you used a first- or second-level header, you’d select the text and click one of the buttons in the “styles” section–“Heading 1” or “Heading 2,” in this case. Then MAGIC HAPPENED.

Because the moment you do that, your text is automatically formatted according to the rules you assigned to that style. And if you ever need to change that style, you don’t change it in the document. You just edit the Heading 1 or Heading 2 style directly and every header in your document using that style is automatically updated.

How is this useful for novels?

You probably don’t use a lot of font styles in novels. 99% of my novels are one thing: 12pt Times New Roman font. There’s just one really important exception: chapters headings. At the start of every chapter, I have a big, bold heading: CHAPTER ONE. CHAPTER TWO. CHAPTER THREE.

And I create a style for those. This does two things. First, it makes it really easy to navigate your Word file. Just hit Control+F to bring up the Navigation Pane:

The MS Word Navigation Pane with the "Browse the Headings in your Document" button circled.

See that button? That’s called “Browse the headings in your document.” Click it.

The Browse Headers button showing all the chapters in a document.

And voila. Because I made every chapter heading a header, I can now see all of them–and I can click on them to navigate around the file.

Know what’s even better? If you want to create an e-book of your novel, Calibre will automatically split your book into chapters and create a table of contents. It does this by looking for Heading 1s and splitting the book at those points. (I covered this in a very old post called A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Making Imperfect .EPUB Files.)

So if you write in Word, this is useful. Let’s talk about how to do it.

Step #1: Edit the “Heading 1” Style

First, let’s make the Heading 1 style look the way you want it to.

  1. Go to the “Home” tab. In the “Styles” section, find “Heading 1.”
  2. Right click on it.Screenshot of styles tab showing Heading 1
  3. Click on “modify.”MS Word - Styles Page
  4. This is the “Modify Style” page. The easiest stuff to change is in the middle. Choose the font, size, and color.
  5. If you want to change anything else, click the “Format” button. You can customize a lot of things! But for the purposes of this example, we’re done. Hit “OK.”

“Heading 1” should now look exactly like you want it to.

Done? Good. Now do the same thing to the style called “Normal.” This is your “normal” text.

Step #2: Apply the style to all your chapter headings.

This one’s easy!

  1. Go through your entire document.
  2. When you encounter a chapter heading, select it. Be careful to only select the text you want to be a header. Don’t select extra lines or spaces!
  3. Click on “Heading 1.” Your chapter heading should automatically change.

Step #3: Make sure it looks right.

Remember above, when I told you how to use Control+F to bring up the Navigation Panel? Do that. View your headings. Does everything look OK?

It’s easy to make mistakes. I have, for example, accidentally made single blank spaces into headers–and then they show up in the heading viewer as big, empty spaces that mess up the flow of my “table of contents.”

So what do you do if that happens? Just turn it into normal text.

  1. Navigate to the thing that shouldn’t be a header. (You can do this by going into the Navigation Panel with Control+F, going to “Browse the headings in your document,” then clicking on the mistake.)
  2. Select the stuff that shouldn’t be a header.
  3. Click on the “Normal” style.

It will be converted from a Heading to normal font. And normal font doesn’t appear in the navigation panel, so it should vanish from your “Browse the headings in your document” list.

And that’s it!

That’s all you have to do. Now you can navigate your Word file with just a click of the mouse. And if you want to convert your Word file into an e-book, you’re all set–all you have to do is follow the steps in A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Making Imperfect .EPUB Files.

It’s a simple trick, but it can be super useful!

 

A Justice Unending email ad.

You can use someone else’s mailing list to send book deals directly to someone’s inbox! But does it work?

So, let’s be honest. I don’t know anything about marketing a book.

This is decidedly Not a Very Good Thing, because I happen to have a book published by a small press. But–and this is the part where I admit my very embarrassing life lessons to the internet, where it will be engraved in stone and never forgotten, ever–I didn’t really know what to expect. I threw poor Justice Unending to the winds, figuring I’d figure out what was working as I went, based on whether I was selling books or not.

Consequently, I’ve been learning as I go. If I sell anything, I did something right. If I didn’t, then I did something wrong. This is an advertising trial by fire, and I’ve done a lot of not selling books as I’ve figured myself out.

So here are my lessons. I had (and have!) no idea what I’m doing. But if I can figure it out, you can figure it out. Let’s do this thing!

This week, I’m going to talk about my experience with mailing lists.

What are they?

There are a lot of book-related mailing lists. People sign up to get ads for books they want to read. You, the author, pay for the right to send an ad to the thousands of people on these lists.

These are usually discount lists, so they only promote books that are on sale, under a certain price, or free. People don’t sign up for these just so they can be advertised to, after all–they want a deal!

What did I use?

I bought ads in two services:

*Note, GenreCrave seems to do its genre-based mailing list work through BookRebel now. I know nothing about this because that was not the case when I used them back in November 2016.

What did I get?

I got:

  • A brief, one-paragraph pitch
  • A picture of the cover
  • A link to a sales page (normally the Amazon page)
  • One promotion to the mailing list
  • (GenreCrave only) Posting on the website under the genre-specific list

For GenreCrave, I chose the very small (and very cheap) Steampunk & Dystopian list. For Bargain Booksey, I chose the much larger Fantasy & Paranormal list.

How easy was it?

These are super easy.

  • Do a little research. There are a lot of these out there. You want one that reaches a lot of people for a reasonable price.
  • Then just choose a day and pay them.
  • You’ll probably need to write a summary and send them links and a cover image.

That’s it. No learning required. No work needed on your end. Just throw money at a list and they will mail it out for you.

How well did they work?

This is mildly complicated:

  • They were good for getting purchases on a single, specific date.
  • They were not good for getting a lot of purchases.
  • They were not good for getting ongoing purchases.

So, here’s what I noticed: on the days my ads ran, I did get a few purchases. However, I got very few purchases. While you can’t tell where your Amazon purchases came from and I actually don’t have 100% of my sales data for the Bargain Booksey sales period yet, I’m going to guess that both of these got me only between 1-3 sales.

In terms of sales, that’s not great. Neither of these recouped their costs.

However, that’s not necessarily bad, because those sales all happened on a 1-2 day period. And that might have a rather specific use.

So what do I think?

One or two sales isn’t very good. And while there are always variables (did I write terrible promo text? Did I choose a bad day?), I can’t imagine that a one-day, one-time email will ever result in ongoing sales.

But I do think mailings lists have a use. Just a very specific one.

Your Amazon sales rank–and thus your position in Amazon bestseller lists–is a very fluid number. Selling just one copy can rocket up your sales rank. That rank will go down  every day you don’t sell a copy, and it’ll shoot up every time you sell another one.

So you don’t need to sell a large volume of books for your Amazon sales rank to go up. You could hit the top of some genre bestseller lists with a relatively small number of sales–they just have to happen close together.

And mailing lists are good for this.

So, based on what I saw:

  • It’s not a very good technique if it’s all you do. A mailing list, by itself, will not result in enough sales to mean anything.
  • But it is helpful as part of a marketing campaign that focuses on a specific date.
  • And it could be helpful if you want to get a high rank on an Amazon bestseller list.

So a good one, chosen on a specific date, might be a great choice for, say, your launch date! Or your relaunch date! Or a sale when you’re doing a lot of other ads!

But if you’re brand new at marketing and really want to get your book out in front of eyeballs, or you’re starting from scratch–like I was!–I wouldn’t suggest doing these and nothing else.

I didn’t make my money back on either of these ads. I didn’t even come close! And they didn’t seem to give me any ongoing benefit–I didn’t gain followers, see traffic on my websites, gain book reviews, or see an increase in shelved books on Goodreads. I saw literally 1-3 sales around the date I placed my ads, and then nothing.

So if you’re trying to use your marketing dollars carefully, I probably wouldn’t start with these–or at least use them without a specific goal in mind.

I’m having a heck of a time coming up with a post this week. So, here! Check out this Word Repetition Counter I made!

Screenshot that reads 'Word Repetition Counter. Do you use the same words over and over? Paste in some text and see which words you use the most.'

Click to see the actual tool!

Warning: I made it in JavaScript. I’m very new at JavaScript. If you break it, I won’t be surprised. Just tell me so I can fix it.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Paste in a part of your novel. (I usually do one chapter or scene at a time.)
  2. Click “See what words you use the most!”
  3. It’ll count how many times you use each word and put them in the “results” column. Click on each word to highlight it in the text.

Optionally, you can click “Remove Common Words” to remove words like the or a, or “Hide Words Only Used Once” to remove words you only used once, since… well, you’re obviously not using those words too many times, right?

How does this help?

It highlights specific words so you can see, visually, how often they appear and how close they are to each other.

Sometimes this is fine. Repetition isn’t always a problem. Sometimes the story is perfectly fine just the way it is, even if you used a somewhat distinct word seven times in 4,000 words.

Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you get stuck on a word and your character lurches five times on a page or absolutely everything in a room is brilliant. This kind of repetition can stand out if you use a word multiple times in a sentence, or in multiple consecutive sentences… but it can be harder to see if it’s spread out over a few paragraphs, or a page or two.

This tool is not pointing out “problems” that you need to “fix.” It’s just a tool to help identify when you might be getting stuck on a word.

Why did I make this?

When Justice Unending was being edited by Evernight Teen, this is something the editor did for me. Whenever I got stuck on a word–which was surprisingly often–she’d highlight every instance of it in MS Word.

And it was great! Sometimes I just didn’t see this stuff. “Her breath caught in her throat,” “she drew in a breath,” “her breath shook…” It all feels like I’m saying different things, until I use the word “breath” a dozen times in a 3,000-word chapter. Seeing it on paper, with color, helped me see when I was using a word a lot.

I don’t know what tool she used. (Maybe she did it manually. Ugh.) But I thought it was cool. And since I’ve been studying JavaScript, I decided to make my own program that did this automatically.

And here it is!

Tell me if you find it useful!

I really just made this so I could practice JavaScript. But if you use it, and if it’s useful, tell me! I’d love to know that something I made was useful.

And if you manage to break it, tell me.

I attended the New England SCBWI writing conference back in April, and one of the most intriguing panels I attended–and the one that’s stayed with me the best–was called “And Then There Were More: The Art of Writing a Series with Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette.”

I’m a fantasy author, so–be it for better or for worse–series are part of the landscape. And when I plan a trilogy, I only know one way to do it. I’m an outliner, yes? So if I was going to make three books, I’d outline all of them at once. I’d think big, come up with a large conflict, and then break it into three, self-contained arcs that inch closer to the “true” final battle. This is how I think.

But know why this panel stuck with me? Because Ms. Paquette explained that you can’t really think that way if you’re getting published with a traditional publisher.

So, my friends, if you’re one of those folks who wants to go the big, big publisher route, gather ’round and listen. Here was her advice.

A publisher might not agree to a full series right off the bat.

The crux of Ms. Paquette’s talk was that, if you’re getting published with a big publisher, guess what? You can’t choose whether you get a sequel or not.

You can want one. You can tell the publisher you have ideas for a series. That’s great! Publishers love knowing you’re ready to write more. But do you actually get to say “Hey, guess what, I’m taking a three book deal or nothing?” Well, probably not. (Not if your agent wants to steer you clear of the chance they say “Great! Nothing it is!”)

Instead, the publisher gets to decide if you get one book, two books, or whatever. And if you’re new, unproven, or they just aren’t sure about this project yet, they may want to wait and see.

So they only sign a contract with you for one book. They want to wait and put out the first book before making any decisions. They want to see if there’s any interest in it. Is it selling well enough to justify a sequel? If so, awesome! Let’s do more! If not, oh well! We all got one book out of it, didn’t we?

…And that means you have to change how you think about planning a series.

So, you can’t guarantee you’ll be given the number of books you want. How on earth do you write a series?

Ms. Paquette recommended:

  • Write one standalone novel, which has potential for more novels, but doesn’t require them.
  • Put all your best ideas in there, because:
    • If you want a chance at a sequel, you need to blow sales out of the water. Your best shot is the idea that you love the most.
    • Your readers will only choose to read book #2 if book #1 blows them away.

I mean, this makes sense, right? The idea that you have the most passion about is the one you’ll write the best.

And if you were planning a trilogy with two small crises you kind of care about, leading up to one mega-ending that you love dearly, then you could shoot yourself in the foot. if Vaguely Interesting Conflict #1 sells so-so, what publisher would want to pay for Middling Book #2? Who would read 500 pages and two books of buildup just to reach the thing you really wanted to write about in book #3?

So you frontload that stuff. You use all your best ideas in book #1.

This turned my thinking around,and… also made it really hard to plan.

OK. Fair warning: I do a lot of how-tos on this blog where I give advice about writing. What follows is not advice. It is me, whining.

At the beginning of this post, I said that I plan linearly: If I do a series, I think of one big crisis and break it into pieces. But let’s think about that: if I put my best ideas first, in book #1, then… I can’t really plan like that, can I?

This is really hard for me! Ok, so I should… write one standalone book with my best ideas. But have more ideas! Just not the ideas that made me desperate to write
this thing. Just other ideas, which are hazy ideas, which could become full-fledged books, if they needed to. But which aren’t yet! But still have those ideas, because the publisher wants to know you have a plan.

Ooof. So many variables.

I mean, I’ve done this before. Justice Unending is a standalone novel with series potential. It’s one book, it has a crisis, and it resolves it. It has an really, really open ending that leaves room for more novels. I just didn’t plan any. I wrote one book and did not, in the process of writing that book, think about what book #2 could be about. That’s great for pitching (apparently) and terrible for my own personal planning, because it’s way harder to feel like I’m done and then to think, “OK, but if I was going to do more, what would I do?”

(Apparently I should, though, since all the book reviews mention wanting a sequel.)

And my current novel–which is not a sequel to Justice, sorry!–is just a standalone adventure in one mysterious land, designed so that this adventure in this country would be resolved, and any other sequels (if there were any) would just be other adventures in other places. You know, almost episode-style.

But this is tricky. It is, undoubtedly, way easier to plan if you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, and this is something I struggle with mightily. Because writing in limbo–the book that can be book one-of-one and also book one-of-three–is hard.

This is the sort of thing that makes self-publishing way easier. At least then no one’ll tell you you can’t have a series if you want to have a series. But if you’re going the traditional publication route, you’ve got to be a little more flexible.

All’s fair in love and marketing, I suppose.

That title is a mess. It’ll have to do.

As so many of my posts start, I read a thread the other day that asked “Will writing fiction improve your non-fiction writing skills?” This is a question I’ve seen a lot, in many different forms. And a lot of times, people answer with, “Sure! It doesn’t matter what you’re writing–writing well is writing well!”

And that’s… kind of true? A little? But I don’t agree with the spirit of that answer.

Here’s why.

Some writing skills are universal.

Grammar. Spelling. The ability to choose words that mean what you want them to mean. The ability to identify your target audience and write toward their level of understanding.

These are your transferable skills. It’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the point. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a novel, a fact sheet, a lesson plan, or a marketing campaign. These matter. Someone who is good at these will have the basic skills needed to write anything.

But it doesn’t mean that someone with good writing skills will be good at all kinds of writing, because…

Different kinds of writing have different institutional skills.

Unfortunately, “writing well” is not the only thing you need to write a good novel or a really successful marketing campaign. Every style of writing has its own, separate sub-skills that are unique to that medium–and if you don’t know them, you may be okay at writing, but you won’t be amazing.

Think about it this way: do you think that people who do marketing writing have to know different things than people who do technical writing? Or hey, you’ve written novels: do you think you could stroll into an ad agency and get a job as a copywriter, right now, with no other training?

Of course not. There’s a reason that you could get a degree in marketing, journalism, technical writing, and English and learn completely different skills. They all probably have a 101 course to beat basic writing skills into you, and they all probably have professors who’d rail on you for using too many unnecessary words. But they’d also teach you specialized skills that are unique to each style of writing.

For example, let’s look at what I do for a living: web writing.

You don’t write websites like you do novels. All web writing is designed around the idea that people skim, people search, and no one reads everything you’ve written. How often do you go through a website and read every single page on the site? Never, right? Heck, people rarely even start at the top of a page and read every single word on the way down.

So when you write for web, you write in tiny little paragraph-nuggets of information. You use headers to break text into distinct sections, so people can jump to just the part that they care about. You use short paragraphs. You use lots of white space, and things that facilitate white space, like bullets. You have to think about how links are used and how they’re written. And that’s without getting into the more technical requirements, like SEO.

And I’ve seen exceptional writers–people with 20 years of experience writing technical reports–sit down and write 10-page, super-dense, extremely deep websites, with… references? And footnotes?! And the words are good, because they’re great at explaining things, but no one’s going to read that thing because it’s not good web writing.

This isn’t to say this hypothetical person couldn’t be good at web writing. Of course they could! They’d probably pick it up quickly, because they have a really good foundation. But to be actually good at it, writing well is not enough–they’d have to learn the skills that make web writing unique.

This is exactly the same for fiction.

Seriously. Let’s think about it:

  • Being good at writing English class essays doesn’t mean you know how to do the plotting, worldbuilding, characterization, or tension development that’s needed to write a fiction novel.
  • Knowing how to write a good novel doesn’t mean you can write a good query letter. Queries are more like marketing documents than create writing–and a lot of writers struggle with them.
  • And, to answer the question this post started with: writing fiction won’t teach you how to structure a non-fiction book, how to convey real-world experiences or data in an engaging way, or any of the other talents that non-fiction writers use and novelists don’t.  (And to make things worse, non-fiction and fiction books are also queried differently.)

Like all things, the devil’s in the details.

So when someone asks if writing fiction makes you good at non-fiction, or if writing essays or doing online roleplaying or anything that isn’t writing novels would make you a better novelist, I’d answer… not… really? Writing novels, learning about novels, and studying novel-related skills makes you better at novels. Because, in the end, writing well is a lot more than just grammar.

TL;DR: You get better at something by practicing it, not something kind of similar to it.

I guess I could have probably just replaced this entire article with that, huh?

Cover of How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn.

Hotlinked from Goodreads.com.

(First, in unrelated news, check out the four-star Uncaged Book Review of my YA fantasy novel, Justice Unending! You can find it on page 98. And with that out of the way…)

I have a confession: I don’t know anything about marketing.

I started this blog and my author website several years ago, and proceeded to do absolutely nothing at all with them. I went on Twitter and then spoke to no one, because I’m super shy and have no idea how people make friends… anywhere, honestly, but Twitter especially. When my first novel came out, I did a few guest posts, posted a few announcements, put in one request for a book review, and wasn’t sure what else to do.

I really don’t know anything about marketing.

So I started reading.

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book covers an immense amount of turf. It’s divided into several sections: an introduction to marketing, short-term promotional techniques (which don’t require an established internet presence), long-term techniques (which do), and an example of how you’d bring all of these together for a launch or re-launch of a book. It also has an absolutely killer appendix that lists every single main point of the book in checklist form. It’s immensely skimmable, incredibly useful, and possibly my favorite part of the book. Seriously. And it’s an appendix. Full of bullet points.

The book is a little vague on the technical details, but I’m guessing that’s intentional. It doesn’t tell you how to make a Facebook ad, for example; it tells you why they’re a good idea and explains that you can use your email list to target lookalike groups, but it doesn’t explain how you actually go into Facebook and do that. (This is probably intentional–that gets into “How to use Facebook” territory, and I’m sure the author didn’t want to write a technical how-to that’ll just go out of date the next time Facebook tweaks something.) And while this is true for a lot of things (“just do a giveaway,” as opposed to “here’s where you can learn how to do an Amazon/Goodreads giveaway”) the author does have an awful lot of supplementary links on her website that explain things that the book does not.

So while I might not feel like I could run out this very second and run a Facebook campaign, I did come away with an immense amount of ideas. How to Market a Book covers a ton of ground, from ads to book reviews to videos, podcasts, and more. I now have a lot of ideas about what I could look into next–and isn’t that exactly what an introductory book on marketing should do?

Oh yes, one more thing: there is, unsurprisingly, a very, very heavy emphasis on self-publishing, and many of the techniques aren’t easy to do if you’re published through a publisher. I could probably experiment with categorization, keywords, and metadata, for example, but because I published with a small press, I’d have to send those changes through my publisher. I’m fairly sure I can’t do Amazon advertisements at all, since I don’t have access to the Amazon KDP page for my book. So if you aren’t self-published, you’ll have to suss out with specific elements are still open to you. (Don’t worry. There are still a lot.)

Overall, this is a really lovely book for someone who’s brand new to marketing. It doesn’t go into immense detail about anything, but it does cover a little bit about a lot. And that’s just what I needed: an idea on where to start.

Overall, five stars. It’s a great introductory book.

(Also, in totally related news, I now have a mailing list! You can sign up on my website. You’ll get a free short story, too! Or, if you’re a writer, you can get the word counting spreadsheet I used in my Fun Ways to Use Excel to Track Your Writing Progress [#1, #2] posts.)