Writer’s Block by Casia Pickering

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An authors thoughts on Writer’s Block

by Casia Pickering

Writer’s block. It’s real, folks. Seriously. Take right this moment as an example. I wanted to sound pretentious, informative, and intellectual, permitted to sit among the greats, but really, I’m just me- a writer with the block. The block is called “The Guest Post.”

For me, I dislike calling it a block. A block feels like a Rubix cube or a blockage in the circulatory system. One aspect is easily solvable if you know the formula or have the time to take off the stickers and place them on the cube correctly. The other image? Well, without proper medical care, that shit can kill you.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the patience to take off the stickers on a Rubix cube, nor do I feel like getting probed to see if I’m going to kick the bucket anytime soon. Let’s face it; neither image feels very “Author.”

Nope. I consider the block as a wall because that’s what it is. You are running through a maze made by your imagination, and you made the wrong turn, meeting with a wall- The Writer’s Wall. 

So, what do you do about the wall? It’s pretty simple. You have three options from where I stand, and all of them suck, but hey, you can get around it.

Option one is backtracking. Follow down the path you just went through and see what had caused you to make that wrong turn. There was one time I met the wall, and I backtracked. It turned out that a secondary love interest to the triangle wanted more screen time. It turns out he was a central character, that he had personality, and I needed to show it. I have to rewrite that story again because it turns out I still haven’t given him the love he needs.

Option two is breaking the wall. Just go for it. Write something completely off the wall in your story. Force the story to happen. Just grab that sledgehammer and slam it into the bricks, break the plaster, cut through the drywall, and make that small home into a beautiful renovation that will make HGTV cry tears of adoration. This is an excellent option if you are on a blank page. A great example of me doing that is at the beginning of this post. That was me taking the sledgehammer into the wall.

Option three is parkour. Come on. I know you had to have run and jumped on a jungle gym as a child. Do you remember being fearless? I do. Sometimes, I do silly things and twirl, all the while screaming “Parkour.” Yes, it does make people stare at me, but hey, it works. No, I don’t do actual parkour, but I do like to do something physical and productive to break what keeps me from writing. Usually, it is chores or just doing something silly. What matters is you don’t focus on the act of writing. Instead, you do something different. Eventually, the blood will get to the brain, and the brain will hit the imagination, thereby helping you write.

So, is the block actual? Yes, but it’s a wall, and everyone knows that if you can build a wall, you can tear it down. That’s why we made catapults, to fly over them and take over the kingdom.



Writer’s Block by Brandon Barrows

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An authors thoughts on Writer’s Block

by Brandon Barrows

Hi. I’m Brandon Barrows. Maybe we’ve met before. Maybe you’ve read my previous novel Burn Me Out, or the one before that, This Rough Old World or possibly a story of mine in various magazines and anthologies. Maybe you’ve already ordered my next novel, Strangers’ Kingdom are eagerly awaiting the chance to dive into it. If so, my sincerest thanks.

But I’m here today to talk about something else, something all three of those novels—and honestly, most of my work, has been afflicted by at some point in the past: writer’s block.

Some people don’t believe writer’s block is real. I believe those people either have never tried writing anything or are just really, really insanely lucky to have never experienced it. All three of my published novels mentioned above have suffered from it at some point or another in the writing process.

This Rough Old World took two years and more than a dozen drafts, beginning as a twenty-five-thousand-word novella and ending up as an eighty-three-thousand-word novel before it was done. In between drafts, I often went weeks or even months without touching it simply because I had no idea what came next. The same is true of Strangers’ Kingdom, but it was even longer: three years. I got stalled at around the seventy-thousand-word mark and realized I had no idea how to end the book. It sat, completely untouched, for a year and a half before I was able to beat it into submission.

It’s frustrating. It makes you doubt yourself, your ability, the worthiness of this pursuit. You wonder, could I be doing something better with my time? But I never quit. Even when I wasn’t working on this books, I was working on something else, because I just had to. Not writing is pretty unthinkable and to be perfectly honest, the times when I can’t write hurt. It’s a kind of ache that’s almost physical, knowing you should be producing but not being able to. And eventually, you just find a way to get going again because there’s no other choice.

A lot of people say they think they have a novel in them, or they want to write a book someday, and just never get around to it. A lot use writer’s block as an excuse. That’s okay, if you’re okay with it. Absolutely no judgment.

But that’s what separates writers from regular folks: no matter how hard it is, no matter how much it hurts, you keep going, because you have to. To do anything else is unthinkable.

That’s what it was like writing Strangers’ Kingdom. I knew how the story started, but had no idea how it ended and it took me a lot of brain-wracking and soul-searching and just plain forcing myself to get it done. But I did it. And when it was done, I felt great, even though I knew there were parts I would need to rewrite. But that’s part of the process, too. The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. The guts of writing comes later, in the revising and the editing stage. It doesn’t really matter what goes into that first draft, so long as there is a first draft. That’s what I kept telling myself and that’s how I learned to break through the writer’s block.

Writer’s block still happens, of course, but learning how to deal with it is something you just have to do if you want to write. And once you do, trust me, you’ll feel great.



Time Management by Casia Pickering

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An authors thoughts on Time Management!

by Casia Pickering

Time management, well, to make this simple, time management sucks ass. It does. And I suck at time management. That said, it makes juggling life an exciting roller coaster of a ride. 

I recently juggled my first full-time job (I used to work part-time and was predominantly a house-mom), going through the legal uphill of a divorce, being a mom, and writing. That means setting aside my writing. I set myself tiny writing goals and try to meet those, but I am nowhere near where I want to be.

In my ideal time management writer life, I wouldn’t have the legal stuff. Instead, I would be charging toward a full-time author deal. I already know that juggling the Bug, my son, and writing wouldn’t be an issue. If anything, the dude would be a nuisance making sure I get my writing done. 

Juggling my time with him and writing isn’t a chore. Bug makes it his job to ask me if I’m writing. He likes to tell everyone in his school that his mother is an author, he likes having my stories on his bookshelf, and he is already planning out my merch store. No, I don’t have merch. He wants that to happen. I know I’m spoiled by this kid.

If you are a writer and a parent, but finding it hard to juggle the time for both, try to include your child in what you’re doing. Tell them they get to kick your butt if you don’t write. One time, Bug forbade me Oreos until I had a set number written. I still haven’t had an Oreo. Is he evil? Quite possibly, but he is my son, and I encouraged this method of accountability. 

Ultimately, don’t beat yourself up. Choose what is more important, do those things first, and if you have time to do the less important- there you go. For me, Bug is the top priority. Therefore, for right now, it is the legal stuff and full-time work that have to be the head of the train with writing being in the caboose. Bug is my conductor, and he’s doing a great job at it.



Guest Post: Why Mix Paranormal & Dystopian?

Why mix Paranormal and Dystopian?

Guest Post by Emily S. Hurricane

Two words: why not? Okay but seriously…I really love end of the world stories. But as with most tales, I also love something with a paranormal twist. I wondered what it would be like for a set of people to have the entire world at their fingertips because there are just so little people left.

So what if a disease wiped out humanity and all that was left were immune supernatural creatures? And what if one of them didn’t even know what she was?

Daphne doesn’t know what she is, and has to navigate being potentially the last person on earth. This obviously isn’t a new idea, but I thought it would be so interesting to look at it through the lens of what on the surface seems like an everywoman. Imagine having to watch everyone around you die horribly, and somehow come through unscathed? I wanted to explore what that would do to a person, how she would deal with it (or not deal with it), and what she would do with her time.

What would you do if you were the last person on earth?

Emily hails from rural Nova Scotia, curled up on a tree stump with a bubblegum pink notebook and a steaming mug of French roast coffee. She is a thirtysomething mom of a toddler and a fur-baby. Her lumbersexual husband doesn’t actually work in lumber anymore, but he still wears the plaid and the beard.

When she’s not writing and/or momming, she’s sipping espresso, crocheting, and listening to audiobooks. She’s an established freelance writer and editor.

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The Beginning of the End  (Bloodlines Vol. 1) by Emily S. Hurricane ~ Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Daphne Rhodes would tell anyone: being ‘the one’ sucks.

At least, she would if there was anyone left to tell. She’s the one who’d survived. The one with the magic immune system that saved her.

The only one left on this whole miserable planet.

Daphne spends her days alone and craving answers as to why it had to be her. Why did she have to watch everyone she’d ever known and loved die a horrific death?

On her mother’s deathbed, Daphne learns long-hidden family secrets that send her on a quest across Canada to not only discover where she came from, why she survived, and who she is…but what she is, as well.

Volume 1 of the Bloodlines Series

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What Goes into a Killer First Line? And How to Craft Your Own!

What Goes into a Killer First Line? And How to Craft Your Own!

Guest Post by Desiree Villena

You’ve meticulously outlined a plot, researched the concept, even started thinking about how you might go about publishing your book — now you have to actually put pen to paper and write the first sentence. This should be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, right?

Alas, it’s rarely such. But if this is the moment you’ve found yourself lost for words, you’re definitely not alone!

Great first lines come in many shapes and sizes, depending on variables like genre, aim, and the events of your opening scene. Rather than giving a one-size-fits-all approach, I’d like to analyze the art of the opener with a few examples, so that you can decide upon the most slick and stylish opening line for your story.

Option #1: Establish a simple fact or event

Sometimes, less is more. Rather than conjuring up something dramatic and unforgettable, sometimes your best option is getting something — anything — down on paper! Opening a scene in the clearest way possible establishes narrative directness, rather than appearing convoluted and overwrought. For an example of an opener that’s both attention-grabbing and fact-based, let’s look at Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend:

This morning Rino telephoned. I thought he wanted money again and I was ready to say no.”

Here, Ferrante states an event that has occurred and explains it in simple terms. In the first part of this opener, we learn of the event: a conversation, which we soon find out is between an elderly lady and a young man, about a woman who has suddenly gone missing. In the second part, we get a sense of the interesting dynamic between the two, via the protagonist’s assumption over what the call is about. Simple, yet highly effective.

Option #2: Jump into the action

Forget what you were taught at school — starting with exposition is not a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to kicking off your story. In fact, many story structures advocate for cutting straight to the action to establish pace, intrigue, and excitement early on. It also allows for more sophisticated incorporation of character development and backstory as the plot develops.

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is a great example of establishing the crunch point of a story in the opener:

 “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

This line is short, sparse, and shocking. The reader immediately understands the crisis upon which the story will likely hinge. It doesn’t waste any time in grabbing the reader’s attention and setting the stage for the mystery that is about to unfold.

Option #3: Set the mood with something literary

That said, a little bit of exposition can be a more appropriate way to begin your story — particularly if it’s a slowburn or a more lighthearted form of fiction, like a romance or a slice-of-life drama. This can be done through the use of a literary device, like a simile or metaphor, or a detailed description of a place or a character.

For example, John Kennedy Tooles’ A Confederacy of Dunces starts with a physical description of Ignatius J. Reilly, Toole’s unpleasant, flatulent, work-shy protagonist:

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.”

This opening instantly establishes the humorous tone of this cult classic, and shows Reilly to be a character with silly and somewhat foolish dimensions. It also figures as a more subtle illustration of the general tone of the story — comical yet description-heavy.

To use a metaphor of my own, this approach might be considered a dimming of the stage lights, rather than setting up the props! Illustrative, expressive writing with a touch of symbolism effectively establishes the ambience of a scene and allows for a gentle build up to the action.

Option #4: Impart some thoughtful philosophy

Some of the most memorable lines in fiction take a more worldly approach. This will require more expansive thinking than the other three tactics — but, when done well, can imbue your writing with an air of authority and significance that goes beyond the relaying of a series of events. L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between is a classic, oft-cited example of this type of opener:

 “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

In this case, Hartley alludes to the regret-tinged tale of his elderly protagonist, Leo, concerning a fateful visit to the country estate of his childhood friend Marcus. Rather than expressing a point of action, this kind of opening steps back from the plot and expresses a sentiment that resonates with the narrative arc of the story. If done well, this can be a stylish and thoughtful way to foreshadow the morale of your story, affirm a particular tone, and impart some wisdom onto your readers. Creative and classy.

If you’re still stumped, fear not! You can start writing your book or story at whichever point you feel is most clarified in your mind — beginning, middle, or end. As long as you keep plugging away, you’re bound to come up with something sooner or later!


The author of this guest post, Desiree Villena, is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.


What Really Scares Me: Addiction in Horror

What Really Scares Me: Addiction in Horror by Holley Cornetto

I have a confession to make. Most horror doesn’t really scare me.

Horror writers primarily deal in fear, and what frightens one person may fall flat for another. I’ve found this to be true in my reading and writing. Some reviewers may call something terrifying, while others call it boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about ghosts and monsters and deranged killers wielding chainsaws, but those things don’t keep me awake at night.

So then, what does scare me? The death of a loved one. Sickness. Grief. Insanity. Sleep paralysis. Snakes. Addiction.

Most of my fears, snakes aside, have to do with a lack of agency or a loss of control. To date, two of my short stories have dealt with the topic of addiction. It is this particular fear that I wrestle with most often. In part, because addiction is a scary thing, but also because addiction is so often stigmatized in society, that those who suffer because of it often fail to seek out help.

In his article titled “The Compassion of Addiction Horror,” Mark Matthews discusses addiction as possession. In this view, addiction to and withdrawal from substances is akin to “…being spiritually occupied and living through a painful mutation of your physical self” (2020) It is worth noting that the fear here is twofold. It manifests both in addiction and in withdrawal. People who suffer from addiction may feel a loss of control over their bodies and minds. Friends and loved ones may notice a change in the person that they attribute to the substance abuse. Withdrawal has its own set of horrors as addicts suffer a plethora of physical and psychological effects as the drugs leave the system.

Possession stories aren’t the only narratives that include elements of addition. In the article, “How the Horror Genre Helped Me Understand my Addiction,” Tabitha Vidaurri writes that “Vampires are a pretty thinly veiled allegory for substance use disorder if you swap out blood for alcohol/drugs” (2020). But the article doesn’t stop with vampires. Werewolf narratives also allude to substance abuse wherein “people are always waking up the next day, naked, in a field with fuzzy memories of the night before and a bad taste in their mouth” (2020). Whereas possession narratives focus on the changes a person may undergo while under the influence, or during withdrawal, these vampire and werewolf narratives borrow from addition itself. The insatiable need, in the case of the vampire, and in the case of the werewolf, the consequences of our actions when we are not in full control of our faculties.

Addiction in and of itself is a scary thing, not only for the above stated reasons, but also because it is something that society often neglects to discuss openly. In the past, society has stigmatized addiction, often blaming addicts for their own condition. In recent years, thanks to advances in mental healthcare, we’ve learned that there is so much more to drug addiction than bad choices. In many cases, there never was a choice. Many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a range of other health issues, from mental illness to chronic pain.

So, how does this relate to horror? Horror has always served as a venue in which society can safely discuss and work through the fears that lurk in the shadows and dark corners of our minds. Horror does not shy away from bleak or upsetting subject matter; it specializes in it. It celebrates it. Horror serves as a safe space to work through the scary shit that bombards us each day when we walk out of our doors (figuratively speaking, for those of us in lockdown). It may seem like an oxymoron to refer to horror as a safe space, but when reading horror fiction, or watching a horror movie, you are directly in control of the situation. Unlike real life, when the book or movie becomes too much, you can choose to put it aside or turn it off. You can sample the fear in small doses, at your own level of comfort.

I firmly believe that society needs horror fiction as an outlet. Horror readers and writers are some of the kindest and most well-adjusted people that I know, and I can’t help but think it is in part because we work through our problems in fiction rather than bottling them up inside ourselves. Horror helps us learn and practice empathy, and empathy is something that we could certainly use more of, as far as I’m concerned. 

So, now that you know what scares me, go out there and write a story. One that will terrify me. One that I can (hopefully) read in small doses, and at my own pace.

In Holley Cornetto’s story in The Half That You See, “Raven O’Clock,” a  man seeking shelter from the tragedies of his life finds more than he bargained for in a mysterious cabin.

Holley Cornetto was one of 26 authors that contributed to the horror anthology, The Half That You See!

Finding Writing Inspiration by Karen Randau

Finding Writing Inspiration

Finding inspiration for a book can come from a lot of places. I’ve been inspired by news headlines, dreams, and even offhanded comments by those around me.

The inspiration to write a book set in Wyoming came when I vacationed there several years ago. The beauty of the mountains, the sunsets, and the many ranches captivated me. Growing up with farmer grandparents in Colorado, I knew a smidge about ranching. When I was approached about being one of 19 authors writing novellas for a box set about serial killers, I jumped on the opportunity to write Mystery Bones Murders. That box set is now unpublished, and several of us authors have self-published our contributions as single books.

Mystery Bones Murders is about a woman named Frankie who finds a human bone on her land while searching for a stray calf one stormy night. Thrilled she may have found an ancient Native American village, she takes the bone to a friend who is a forensic anthropologist at the University of Wyoming. The news he delivers chills Frankie to the bone. Not only is the bone not ancient, but it could be the remains of Frankie’s mother, who disappeared in the middle of the night while Frankie was in college.

It turns out a serial killer has been burying his victims on Frankie’s land, and they all are people who were once part of Frankie’s inner circle. And now it’s clear the murderer is watching Frankie.

While this is not a romance, Frankie does find love. The thing is, she doesn’t want to fall for this guy. He’s a pastor, and she holds a secret that no pastor—or anyone else for that matter—would ever forgive her. She doubts God will even forgive her, but that’s irrelevant because she’s really mad at the deity who allowed her entire family to die, including her husband and young son in a car wreck.

I’ve incorporated into my writing what my international travels have taught me about the human spirit. Like all my protagonists, Frankie is a strong, resilient woman who would sacrifice anything for her loved ones. Even though she’s isolated and lonely, she finds joy in simple things, especially time with her animals.

With these characteristics in mind, I wrote Mystery Bones Murders not as a story of great heartbreak (but there is great heartbreak in Frankie’s story). Rather it’s a story of redemption and overcoming the obstacles life tends to throw at people.

I’m currently working on the next book in the Frankie Shep series, a winter survival adventure. Frankie is on her way to Colorado to speak about environmental protection at a rancher’s conference. Her airplane crashes on one of the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountain National Park. When rescuers never arrive, Frankie must get herself, a toddler girl, and a Pomeranian dog through arctic conditions down to civilization.

Karen Randau authors fast-paced stories with intricate plots, lots of action, and a dash of romance told from the point of view of a female amateur sleuth. Mystery Bones Murders is her sixth book and the first book in a new series of novellas. She lives in the mountains of Arizona with her multi-generational family.

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As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

I am happy to be one of many Silver Dagger Tour Hosts sharing information about Mystery Bones Murders by Karen Randau.

Guest Post by Cherie Colyer

What inspired you to write this book?

Hi! I’m thrilled to be here with you today celebrating the launch of my newest book, Damned When I Didn’t. This was such a fun story to write, and it is home to some of my favorite characters. The premise for this book blossomed from my desire to write something that hasn’t been done before, which isn’t easy when there are so many authors writing amazing paranormal and supernatural stories. Well, you don’t find many YA succubus books. And then I thought, wouldn’t it be ironic if the succubus in my book is a virgin? How would that work? And how did she end up a succubus? Could she survive? Would she want to? I sure hoped so! So I put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard) and Avery Williams was born. She’s thrown into a life she didn’t ask for and she’s determined not to lose her morals or her human side.

Cherie Colyer is best known for her young adult, paranormal romance thrillers, including the Embrace series (featuring witchcraft) and Challenging Destiny (a story about outsmarting heaven and hell.) She usually has several book projects in the works. She enjoys helping budding writers improve their craft and learn more about the publishing industry. Cherie lives in Illinois with her family. She happily visits schools and libraries and is a member of SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators).

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published My Book #guestpost

Guest Post by Author @authorKristinP (Kristin Ping)

This one is always fun, and hopefully, new and aspiring authors could take something from my experience.

I started to write in 2009. I was 29 years old and thought I would become the next J.K Rowling. I’m honest as can come, and let’s face it, every new author who gets an idea thinks their book will be the next Harry Potter.

Newsflash, and it is a big wake up call, your book won’t be the next Harry Potter unless you really have something gold in your hands.

So yes, that is my number 1. Your book won’t be the next Harry Potter.

Number 2: Reviews.

If I knew reviews could be that harsh, I probably would never have started to write. The funny part is, it’s like 5% of my reviews are so negative, I wanted to sit in a corner and cry. The other 95% struggle to actually wait for my next book.

Authors quit writing because of their reviews. They can be brutal, and less than a percent of those reviews are actually helpful. You get negative reviews that you learn from, and those readers I treasure as they tell you what they find wrong with your book. The other part likes to tell you what trash your book is, and we call those reviewers, Trolls. They are known as trolls as they do not know how to write a review that helps authors and actually trash their writing dreams. It’s one of the reasons I do not read my reviews anymore as I always concentrate on those 5% negative reviews and forget about the 95% that actually loved it.

Number 3. Marketing.

If I knew that I would spend so much time on marketing, I would probably choose a different career. But I love the first part so much, it’s like breathing that marketing is just something I have to do.

Number 4. Writing the book.

My first book took three years to write, and I thought it was the most challenging part I’d ever done. Writing the book is the easiest part. I wish I knew that before I published.

Number 5. Wattpad.

I wish I knew about Wattpad before I started. Wattpad is a beautiful site if you are starting out, trying to build your fan base. It’s a bit harder if you are an established author using Wattpad and then developing your career.

Number 6. Publishers.

I was with a publisher first before I stepped out on my own. Publishers can really make things sound so sparkling and pretty. Giving you the idea that all you are going to do is write the book. It’s not the truth. If you are not a prominent name author, you will work your tush off for a crazy small amount of the percentage when it comes to royalties. You are lucky if publishers give you half, but most provide you with anything from 12 to 25% of the cut. So be careful when it comes to publishers. They have their strong points in getting your book out there, but you can also step in a ditch and struggle to get out.

Number 7. Editing, editing, editing.

English isn’t my first language, and I can’t tell how important it is to get an editor that can actually edit a book. I had many, many people telling me that they are brilliant at editing. Then I trust them and guess what, when my book gets released, plenty of reviews streamed in about my book being riddled with mistakes. It’s hard to find an editor, and I wished that I actually took an editor’s course before writing.

Number 8. You are going to work your butt off.

If you are not prepared to work your butt off (not meaning literally as you sit on a chair), then don’t do this. I never worked this hard at any of my jobs. So be prepared to work your butt off.

Number 9. Funnel sites.

Ever heard of Book funnel, Prolific, and StoryOrigin. Yip, I wish that I knew about them when I started. They are excellent sites that help you gain newsletter subscribers that love books. You need those to make a success from your writing career.

Number 10: Networking.

You need authors to help you make a success in this career. I started late in life when it comes to this, but glad that I discovered it eventually. This industry is not a competition. The sun is big enough for all of us, and you need author buddies to help with pushing and cross-promoting. It’s like one hand washes the other. Bloggers. Bloggers are gold. Treasure them, and work on your blogger list as you grow.

And that is my ten top list of things I wish I knew before I published my book. If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments. I might not even know about it.

Kristin resides in South Africa, East side of Johannesburg with her husband and two beautiful little girls. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she’s living the dream, being able to write every day. ” I love life, cherish every special second of it and live my dream.” She has recently started her own Publishing company – Fire Quill Publishing in South Africa – http://www.firequillpublishing.com/

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As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.


5 Tools to Offset Self-Publishing Costs

5 Tools to Offset Self-Publishing Costs

By Kassandra Flamouri

1. Kickstarter

This one is huge.  When my publisher went under, I wanted to self-publish—but I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money on a book no one wanted to read (a mistake I’d made once already with a bilingual short story collection). So I ran a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter to make sure I at least had enough people interested to cover my publishing costs. I ended up getting nearly twice the amount I was asking for and was able to cover basic publishing costs like an ISBN number, IngramSpark publishing fee, cover design tools, and a month-long NetGalley listing.

A word of warning, however: When you set a goal for a Kickstarter campaign, make sure you factor in the costs of fulfilling rewards. When I set up my campaign, I assumed that most people would want the digital version of my book and that my shipping costs wouldn’t be that bad. I was wrong—nearly everyone wanted a paperback. So instead of $15.00 for each paperback reward, I was really only getting around $3 after printing and shipping. Luckily, I got way more pledges than I expected and was able to cover the costs and meet my profit goal, but it was by a surprisingly slim margin. The bottom line: You’re going to need more money than you think, so don’t be shy about asking for it.

2. Fiverr

Fiverr is a great resource if used (judiciously) to supplement your own work and skills, but it can’t replace them. You can’t pay someone twenty bucks and expect them to pour their heart and soul and creativity into your project. But if you have a solid creative vision and just need someone with the technical skills to make it happen, Fiverr can be a great place to find that someone. My attempt at hiring someone from Fiverr for a full-service cover design was a disaster, but when I tried coming up with my own idea and hiring someone to clean up my sketch and render it digitally, the results were fantastic.

3. Bookbrush

Bookbrush is kind of like Canva but specifically for books. You can make some pretty cool mockups and ads and download up to fifteen for free. You can also try out the cover design tools, though you’ll have to pay for a subscription in order to download or save covers. I did the subscription version ($99 for the year) and used the artwork I’d commissioned from Fiverr to design a cover I absolutely adore. The only warning I have for this service is that I ended up having to pay someone about $15 (yay Fiverr!) to tweak the formatting to make the print version work for KDP and IngramSpark. To be fair, though, the issues could very well have arisen from my own mistakes. And the e-book cover was a breeze!

4. Reedsy

Formatting a manuscript for print is a NIGHTMARE (I mean, if you’re like me and don’t have professional InDesign skills or the money to pay someone with professional InDesign skills). I have done it successfully using Microsoft Word, but it took forever and the results, though pretty darn good, were still not quite perfect. The only reason I suffered through it was the fact that the book required more customization than Reedsy could offer (poems, stories, two alphabets, oh my). When the time came to publish my novel in all its straightforward formatting glory, I just couldn’t face the thought of wrestling with Word again. What took me weeks (months? It’s all kind of a blur, now) with Word took about three minutes with Reedsy. You just select the trim size and make a few stylistic decisions and voila! It can format your work for digital distribution, too, and delivers both an EPUB and a MOBI version of your e-book. All formats include a note giving credit to Reedsy for the typesetting, of course, but that’s a tiny price to pay, especially when it saves you weeks of work or hundreds of dollars (or both).

5. Books Go Social

To be honest, I do have some reservations and caveats for this recommendation. The service is mostly geared toward marketing books through promotional packages that include four to eight weeks of tweets, with an optional month-long NetGalley listing OR three months of email promotions. I took advantage of a sale and also got a $75 ad budget. Unfortunately, the ads had a minimal impact, but I’m not sure it’s any fault of theirs, necessarily (see Where to Spend Your Advertising Budget by Glenn Miller).  At the end of the day, the $90 I spent to was mostly worth it just for the NetGalley listing, as the cheapest option through NetGalley itself is a whopping $450. Be warned, though, that Books Go Social’s execution can be a bit haphazard. If you do go this route, stay on top of them and make sure you give explicit instructions for the timing and content of whatever promotional materials you choose. I think this can be a great tool, but proceed with caution and, as dear Professor Moody would say, CONSTANT VIGILANCE. In the future I will probably give Xpresso Book Tours’ package a try. It’s a bit cheaper at $65 for a month long NetGalley listing, though it comes with a waiting list and no promotional tweets.

Guest post written by Author Kassandra Flamouri

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