Self-Publishing 101

Self-Publishing 101

Go Beyond Just Uploading A Book to Amazon

A great book is just the start.  

Maximize Your Chances for Success by Learning How to Publish Like a Pro

Self-publishing no longer means uploading a file to KDP and calling it a day. You can make your book stand out by following industry standards for publishing, and that's what we'll cover in this workshop.

In this live workshop with Alexa Bigwarfe, you will learn:

  • How to do a keyword research deep dives
  • How to load your book to KDP
  • How to navigate IngramSpark
  • Why we use both KDP and IngramSpark
  • All About ISBNs
  • All about Imprints
  • and More!

By the end of this workshop, you will be equipped to publish your book like a pro, and ensure that your book stands out from all the other self-published books on the market today.

Register today at


Sponsor Spotlight: ProWritingAid

Sponsor Spotlight: ProWritingAid

I don’t think anyone who found her way to the Women in Publishing Summit blog is going to be shocked to hear that “writing is hard.” It’s one of those things that we take for granted. That it’s an art that takes practice, honing, sharpening. And as women, we so often find ourselves short on time or space to do that work. When so much of the unpaid labor of having a family and keeping a home running falls on us, how can we have the freedom to create, too? 

That’s why I appreciate the people behind ProWritingAid, a company that takes the mission of improving writing seriously, and, in creating a successful, practical system to help authors do that, they’ve lifted up so many women’s voices. 

I’m also so grateful that they’ve once again committed to support women authors in another way: by joining us as a Silver Sponsor for the 2022 Women in Publishing Summit. 

ProWritingAid’s revolutionary product creates better books – I know because I use it myself! Here’s why!

What does ProWritingAid do? 

ProWritingAid is a platform that offers a world-class grammar checking AND style checking, so your writing – be it business writing, creative writing, academic writing or anything else – follows the rules for what “good writing” looks like. ProWritingAid then goes beyond that by offering in-depth reporting to help you understand how you write. 

In other words, ProWritingAid lets you know when you’re breaking a good writing rule, and it also tells you how often you use a given word, phrase or even sentence structure. The reports go deep into helping you unpuzzle your own authorial style. It helps keep your writing clean AND interesting. 

You can use ProWritingAid in combination with other writer’s products like Scrivener and Fictionary, as well as within all major word processing programs. You can even add it as a Chrome plug-in so you can use it to write better emails. It’s an easy-to-use product that’s like having a writing coach right in your laptop! 

In addition to the practical help this program can give any writer, the ProWritingAid community is a highly engaged and deeply knowledgeable one. Their paid course community gives authors valuable training on a wide variety of topics in the industry – just one more way ProWritingAid helps every author develop! 

What kind of author needs ProWritingAid?

Anyone who wants to grow as a writer needs ProWritingAid.

You don’t need to be writing the Great American Novel to benefit from this platform. The grammar and style checking can work magic on your business emails, your sales copy and more. We especially recommend that all our clients use it for things like newsletters and blog posts to keep them on track in terms of precision and voice.

But the impact that ProWritingAid can have on your book is huge: there aren’t a lot of opportunities to get real insight into your writing as you’re working on your draft. It’s a game-changer for writers in any genre and in any stage of their career. 

How can I learn more about ProWritingAid?

Check out the ProWritingAid website to find out how they can help you become a better writer – click right here to learn more!

Sign up for our free webinar with ProWritingAid on December 7.


Get your ticket for the Women in Publishing Summit.

Using Amazon and Facebook Ads as an Author

Using Amazon and Facebook Ads as an Author

Royalties. It’s part of every author’s dream. 

But times have changed since the times of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife living in the Ritz on an author’s salary. Millions of books are added to the marketplace each year. But I think we can all agree that it’s good to dream about what can happen.

And, even with the publishing industry changes, let me assure you that there are plenty of authors making big dollars in royalties each month.

How do you make money as an author?

But selling books is HARD WORK. I don’t want to be a Negative Nelly – but I look at stats every day. And I can tell you this: social media can help you grow your audience, but if you’re relying on your social media to get it done for you in terms of book sales, it’s a road that takes time and lots of energy to build. Social media is one tool in the toolbox, but it can’t be your only tool. 

That’s where ads come in. (Register now for our upcoming Ads for Authors workshop – it’s on Monday July 12th!)

I wrote my first book in 2013. I know I often say that earning money as an indie author is a marathon not a sprint, but most authors would be forgiven for not expecting a book published nearly 10 years ago to still be bringing in much money every month. 

But a few years ago, after learning more about Amazon ads, I decided to make this long-languishing, but deeply personal book my guinea pig for testing my new knowledge. I tweaked and adjusted, and over time I built a pretty decent Amazon ad. It was so good that I’ve kept running it for 4 years. I’ve not promoted or marketed this book in any other way since this ad started running. 

And because this book is getting in front of not just readers but the RIGHT readers in the place where they’re already ready to make a purchase (Amazon), it’s selling. Consistently. 

Every month, I get a check from Amazon for about $250 for this book alone. WITH NO OTHER MARKETING. I’m not blogging, Instagramming, podcasting, or promoting this book in any other way except Amazon ads.

And even when I deduct my ad expenses, I’m clearing about $150 a month from one book that I don’t do a single other thing to promote. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s $1800 a year that I didn’t have to work for.

(And, more importantly, this book about coping with child and infant loss is reaching the grieving families who need it. Making a lot of money was never my goal, to be clear, but I do want it to show up in the search results when someone needs it.)

No, it won’t pay my mortgage or for braces. But it goes towards family vacations and dinners out and creating memorable times together. Having that income helps me create something special in my life that wouldn’t be possible without it. 

Ads for Authors: A Live Workshop

If you are ready to do the same for your book – whether it’s a book you’re still writing, or a book you launched a while ago – join me and bestselling indie author Kirsten Oliphant for my brand new premium workshop on Ads for Authors on July 12 at 12:30 pm EDT. (Click here to register.) 

We’ll spend 90 minutes talking about…

  • How to run ads on Facebook and Amazon
  • Whether ads on either platform are right for your book (or not)
  • The timing and strategy for running effective ads that get results

I’ll tell you up front that Kirsten is not from a marketing company – she’s an indie author who is literally supporting her family with 5 figures in Amazon royalties every month. And that’s just her Amazon revenue. 

And she did it by building smart Amazon and Facebook ads. 

Kirsten has grown her career by writing great books and pairing them with great ads. If you’re ready to do the same, I recommend you join us. (The workshop will be recorded to make sure it’s accessible to everyone who’s ready to take this step!) 

Ads for authors workshop

As a special bonus, everyone who registers will get a recording of the fantastic webinar Kirsten did about writing to market. If you want to take your author earning to the next level, writing books that speak to what the audience is seeking is vital!

Seats are limited, so grab yours now – click here to register!

Is it a bad book or a bad review?

Is it a bad book or a bad review?

Finding the ideal reader for your book can be the difference between a bad review and a good review. Bad reviews can be hard to accept as an author but they can also give you insight into your marketing and who is reading your book. They give you a chance to ask “am I reaching the right readers for my book?”

Every author gets bad reviews.

Imagine you’re a novelist looking through Goodreads at some of your new book’s latest reviews and this is what you come across:

This is not an epic, beautiful tale of a wonderful family’s trials, or whatever. It is a long, poorly written story of a family’s sex life.

How does this author take such an interesting and impactful topic and write it so bland, emotionless and boring?

Was this book well written? No. Did I still enjoy it anyway? Also no.

This is the book that made me ignore other people’s recommendations. I have no idea what anyone sees in this piece of trash.

Yikes. You can imagine how hard that feedback would hit a person. They might think the author should hang up his or her hat and find a nice job in a tea shop or selling timeshares.

What if I told you that these were reviews that were left on the recent critically acclaimed books, respectively, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, a National Book Award Finalist; The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020; The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, which made nearly every 2020 “best of” list; and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize?

Showing up in front of your ideal reader matters.

Sometimes the wrong person stumbles on your book, and there are just going to be those people who don't like it. But sometimes these bad reviews come from bad marketing, along with targeting the wrong types of readers.
By ensuring you know exactly WHO your reader is, and making a concerted effort to market to that particular audience, you can make sure that reviews like this are far and few between. That they only happen when the wrong reader stumbles across the book.

And it makes sense that most of the reviews are good for these books. Not only are they all great books, they also all have major publishers lined up behind them with loads of expertise in audience targeting. That’s how you know that finding and showing up in front of your ideal reader matters – the big publishers are willing to spend big bucks doing it.

Authors have to know how an ideal reader.

But indie authors and new voices in writing don’t have that luxury. We have to know how to target our ideal reader on our own, and we need to start figuring it out as we are writing, and carry it through our marketing efforts. We need to dig in and do the work early, and constantly check our work! Otherwise, we’ll end up with readers like the ones above who just don’t “get” us. Readers who don’t know why we’re telling this story and hate the way we’re telling it.

I’ve seen reviews like the ones above on books that clients brought to me for relaunches. These books were well-written, urgent, interesting, powerful. And unfortunately, without proper reader targeting, they found an audience who just couldn't connect with them. They left salty reviews. They didn’t check out the back catalog. They didn’t tell a friend, unless it was to tell the friend to “skip this one.”

But when my clients make the small changes needed to their marketing to find and speak to their ideal reader? The great reviews roll in – “I felt like this book was written for me!” – and the sales come, too.

My clients often learn an important (and pretty encouraging) lesson: it wasn’t the quality of the book that was generating the lackluster reviews and sluggish sales. It was merely incorrect targeting in the book marketing.

Getting in Front of Your Target Readers

Click here to join an exclusive workshop with my friend, Belinda Griffin. She’s a book marketing expert who has mastered the art of audience targeting, and she’s coming to share her secrets with us! No matter what your publishing journey looks like, this is the workshop every author needs to connect authentically, leverage publicity and grow their platform! This workshop is now on demand, which means you can watch (rewatch) it anytime!

Why I Turned Down A Traditional Publishing Offer

Why I Turned Down A Traditional Publishing Offer

From Traditionally Published to Indie Author

indie author

I am about to publish my novel, THE WITCH OF BELLE FLEUR, as an indie author. However, last year I received a book offer for this book. It was my third book offer which I ended up turning down. And I’m so happy.

You may wonder why I’m happy. It’s because I realized after walking away from three book offers, that I was on the wrong track.

I wasn’t satisfied with any of the offers. I wanted to control more of the publishing process, but I didn’t know what was missing. Or rather, who was missing—I was missing. I decided to finally show up to my own party!

I had given up my voice and I should have told myself a while back, “Hold on, woman. That path to publication is wonderful, but not for you.” 

Once I finally listened to that inner indie author voice, I was so relieved. I’m an A type personality—guilty as charged. Not knowing where to focus my energy, I poured it in the wrong direction for me, but it worked! I got both a publisher and agent. If you’re on the path to secure a small publisher and then an agent, I will share what I did. There is no one path to publishing, so it’s wonderful when we share what works, and doesn’t work. 

Wonderful writers, please know yourself. I didn’t, and it was a lesson that I finally learned. It’s okay to admit that you want to take control of your career as a writer, including the publishing aspect.

Steps I took to Get a Small Publisher

Here’s what I did. And it’s something that almost all of you can do. No matter where you live, there’s probably some convention nearby that publishers attend. In my case, it was Dragon Con. My husband and I attend every year. Actually, I missed a year when my little one was only three months. I couldn’t bear leaving him yet. 

The following year, I was ready! I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that if I had the chance, I would take it. 

I attended a panel at Dragon Con. A publisher was present. As they spoke, I planned my elevator pitch—over and over again in my head. Lucky for the person near me, I did this all internally. I established eye contact with the person as they spoke, and as my nerve wavered, I told myself to put on my big girl underwear and do it.  

I almost missed my chance to approach the publisher as they were swamped with other people from the panel. They had walked out of the room and I took my chance and thanked them for a wonderful panel and introduced myself. I explained that I was a writer and gave my elevator pitch. They seemed interested and gave me a card with the scribbled email of the editor. 

Ahh. I did it. 

My elevator pitch was short and interesting. I said, “A recent high school grad who is also a telenovela actress chooses magic to save her sick aunt. Once she does, she unleashes evil.”

I delivered my pitch with enthusiasm and confidence. 

I went home, so elated. I polished my manuscript once more, kissed my laptop screen, sprinkled magical book dust over my keyboard and submitted my manuscript in early September.

An email from the publisher said they would get back to me by November. Fall was around the corner and I looked out of my window, hopeful that soon I could finally say, “I’m a published author!” My Plan B was to self-publish my book if I heard nothing back from them. I promised myself that I would self-publish my book. I didn’t want my manuscript to be stuck in my laptop gathering cyber dust. 

A few weeks later, my husband and I decided to move to Seattle in January 2020. As anyone who has moved cross-country knows, I was busy. My son was about 15 months so I was very busy. Oh, yeah, I had a full-time job as an art teacher, too.

Time rolled on and I realized November had come and gone. It was now December. Our house sold. We were packing, and I remembered the promise I made to myself. So, with the heart and focus of an indie author, I carved out time, and paid for a cover, and began the process of self-publishing my book. I put my book on Amazon Kindle as a Pre-Order to guarantee I wouldn’t back out—no matter what. 

I was excited. My story would finally get to readers. Ahh.

In the middle of preparing for a realtor to show my home, I got an email from the editor. She apologized that it had taken so long to get back to me. She asked if I was self-publishing my book.  I told her I was. She said they were still considering it. I did not take my book down from Kindle yet—that should have let me know where my heart was. But it didn’t—I ignored my indie author voice.

My husband, son, and I had Christmas in Atlanta with family and before I knew it, we had moved to Seattle. We landed on a Thursday and by the following Monday, January 7, 2019, I received an email from the publisher! I had a book offer. 

I was excited. This was my third book offer. The first was from a small publisher that I found while participating in a Twitter pitch contest. I researched the publisher more thoroughly and then I passed. The second was a small publisher that looked great. I LOVED their covers and their books had a lot of Kindle reviews. I searched a bit more… I found that they did not allow for gay main characters. I hit the brakes, “Screeeeeech!” I turned down that book offer, too. 

So here I was, with my third book offer, and you know what they say, “Third time's a charm!” It was January 7th, 2020, and I had a book offer. Yippee! 

I couldn’t keep my book on Kindle, so I unpublished it. I saw the warning box stating that I wouldn’t be able to have another pre-order on Kindle for a whole year. I gulped and took my book off of Kindle, anyway.  

Steps I Took to Get a Literary Agent

I didn’t want to work with a publisher directly. I really wanted a literary agent to protect me and help with contract negotiations. I was now on the hunt for an agent.  

This was a much easier season of querying literary agents for two reasons. The first reason was because my husband and I were no longer trying to conceive. It was quite disheartening getting a monthly no from the baby fairies and a no from the literary agent fairies. 

The second reason it would be easier querying now was because I could now use the subject line, “Offer on the Table from Publisher for YA Fantasy Novel.” 

It worked! I got a NYC agent that I had previously avoided because they were so big. I remember getting the call from the agent when I was in the library with my toddler son. It was an amazing feeling. 

I basked in this new level of existence. I had a publisher AND agent. My ego loved this! I had my inner indie author voice question a few things, and I ignored that voice. 

Why I Turned Both Down and Embraced Being an Indie Author 

Time rolled on and the contract took a while to come to me. I had time to do more research and reflect on what I truly wanted. I didn’t want to give my rights away and be left wishing I’d never signed with a publisher. I was losing sleep and driving my husband and sisters crazy.  

I realized I wanted more than a publisher and an agent. I wanted the right publisher and agent. 

Someone whom I trust talked with me and listened as I finally described how I really felt. They are an expert in the industry and I felt confident expressing my thoughts. After the talk, I realized that a part of me already knew what I had to do.

My L.A.L.A. Method 

Learn- Give yourself time to learn and RESEARCH.

Analyze- Take stock of what is IMPORTANT to you. 

Listen- Listen to your inner voice, EVEN when you don’t want to.

Accept- Accept yourself and celebrate your truth. Reach your goals YOUR way. Don’t walk someone else’s path.

Why it’s Important to Listen to Your Inner Voice

Ok. Deep breath. 

I sent the email that I needed to send and amicably severed ties with both agent and publisher.

What was I going to do now? 

I love my book, THE WITCH OF BELLE FLEUR, and I really wanted to get it to readers. I promised myself to get my book out there. 

I remembered all the resources I had around me and that I was not alone. The amazing Women in Publishing Summit pass that I had purchased was one of my resources that has helped me as I plan my book launch. Alexa Bigwarfe, host of the summit,  has been so inspirational and helpful to me as an author. This has helped me with time management, creativity and marketing strategies.

Also, I’ve discovered StoryOrigin. It’s worth a visit and the founder, Evan, is very helpful. The site helps authors build email lists, boost sales, and find reviewers. 

At the end of the day, this is your writing career. 

My journey was long. I even had a baby in the middle of this book! Save yourself time by using the L.A.L.A. Method above and reach all the amazing writing goals you have set for yourself!

A big hug!

Isabelle Hardesty is a writer of young adult fantasy. She enjoys writing about characters who are like people you know and people you want to know. She is also an artist and has exhibited her art in Paris. Isabelle has had the pleasure of being an art educator in both Miami and the Metro-Atlanta area. She received her B.F.A. from Pratt Institute in NYC. Seattle is home to Isabelle, her husband, and son. She loves being with her family, eating chocolate, and connecting with fabulous readers. When she is not writing, you can find her either researching for her next book or painting.


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