Monday, November 20, 2023

Rewards of Applying

Dear fellow writer,

Are you considering applying for something, but it seems like there's no way you'd be the one chosen? Maybe you want to apply for a workshop or a residency, a grant or a job, or maybe you’re just worrying about submitting a piece you’ve written.

Going through an application process can change your life, and not just if you get chosen.

When I wrote the first iteration of this message, my tiny publishing company, Thinking Ink Press, was a finalist for the Innovative Voices program of the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Turns out we did get into the program (yay!), but even if we hadn’t, the application process changed my relationship to the work we do.

Before, I didn't really know what we did, besides publish books.

Now, because we were forced to articulate our mission and values for the application, I feel confident in what we stand for and excited to find new projects that fit our vision.

For the application, we had to look at our past work and explain why it supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Seeing our published books in that light made me realize that we aren’t just a group of people who care about those things and also run a publishing company. Instead, our company as an entity values those things and bases its actions upon them. The application process made me prouder of the work we've done so far, and it helped me see all our books in the bigger context of what we care about as a press.

Another part of the application was stating our mission. I think we’d all been trying to define our mission for years. We started our press as a group of friends who love books, and we chose what to publish based on opportunities that presented themselves, with the thought that in the future we would see a pattern. Applying for Innovative Voices was just what we needed to see that pattern. The application process helped us reflect on our past work and create a focused mission statement that we believe in. 

A final part of the application was to talk about future projects. While we were discussing this, we got the idea for a science fiction anthology about neurodivergent humans interacting with aliens. We are very excited about this project, but I don’t think we would have committed to it, or possibly even thought of it, if we hadn’t applied for Innovative Voices.

It’s been great to meet the other publishers in the program, and to receive the help offered through it. But I feel we gained something even more important by going through the application process. We know who we are now and what matters to us in our work. 

I think back on other things I’ve applied for, and I see the same pattern: applying for a job causes me to consider what I care about in order to write a résumé. Submitting a story forces me to finish the story and commit to its details, as well as to choose a venue I’d be proud to appear in, and also to become willing to be known as the author of that particular story. Asking someone if they want to write together creates a deeper commitment to my own writing and helps me understand how I want to show up as a writer. Even when these things result in rejection, which they often do, I still gain from the process because I better understand myself and what I want to focus on in my life.

So if you're on the fence about applying for something, I say go for it.

Not just because you might get chosen (because, hey, you might), but because the process of applying can help you choose yourself.


Keiko O’Leary

Co-founder, Thinking Ink Press

P.S. Thinking Ink Press is a traditional publisher. We welcome you to submit your work. 

                            Thinking Ink Press all four of us - Keiko, Anthony, Liza, Betsy

Keiko O'Leary is a co‑founder of Thinking Ink Press, where she edits manuscripts and publishes books. She also works on innovative formats such as flash fiction postcards and mini books folded from a single sheet of paper. She is the author of Your Writing Matters: 34 Quick Essays to Get Unstuck and Stay Inspired. Connect with Keiko at

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Basic Layout of an eBook

The exact layout of an eBook is not set in stone. But if you’ve never prepared one for formatting, there is a basic layout pattern you’ll want to stick to for a professional appearance.

First, let’s cover the standard pages:

Title page – this should contain the title, the author’s name, and the publishing house. You can also include the logo and html web address.

Copyright page
– this should contain the copyright year and author’s name, ISBN, publisher’s name & address, “all rights reserved,” and disclaimer (“work of fiction, etc.). You can also credit people such as the cover artists. If you are registering it for a Library of Congress Control Number or a PNC (pre-assigned control number), that information will also go on this page. (Note that a LCCN or PNC are not assigned to eBooks only but can be included when you register a print book.) If you are getting a LCCN (for publishers with books in multiple libraries) then you will also get a Catalogue in Publication block, also called a CIP block.

Dedication – keep it short and simple.

Table of contents – either chapter titles or numbers. There will be no page numbers, but each chapter title will need to be hyperlinked to its corresponding chapter.

Manuscript – this is the body of your text. Note no headers or page numbers required. You can add graphics for chapter titles/number.

About the author
– a paragraph about yourself. Include links to your website and social sites (but not to retail sites – Barnes & Noble frowns upon eBooks linked to Amazon!) You can also include an author photo.

In between dedication and table of contents, one can also have a list of other books or acknowledgements.

An important item to include is the book’s reviews/blurbs. When readers are skimming the first few pages, reading the free sample, glowing reviews will help them make the decision to buy the book. Reviews for the book can come after the title page or after the dedication.

Other items you might want to include:
Bonus material

Those items will appear after the manuscript ends but before the author page.

And there you have it! The basic layout of an eBook. Now you are ready to get started.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Getting to Published by Gabi Coatsworth

The more I learned about how to get published, the more I realized I would need more than one plan for getting there. I’d started researching how other people got their books out in the world years before I was close to having a manuscript I felt able to submit. I discovered I needed a document professionally edited and formatted in a certain way. Plus an elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, all of them perfect. 

This would guarantee I’d find an agent who would take my novel and sell it to one of the Big Five publishers. They would, of course, fight over my book, pay me a huge advance, buy the movie rights, and sign me up for a two-book contract. Experts agreed this was the only way to do it. 

And then the real publishing world, which seemed to be changing from day to day, intervened.

At that point, I only had one plan—the one above, which I subsequently called Plan A. I queried lots of agents and finally found one with the help of a friend, which is often the way. She did her damnedest to sell the book. I got a revise-and-resubmit, but by the time the new manuscript was ready, the editor who’d asked for it had moved to another publisher and only wanted cozy mysteries. My agent wondered if I could rewrite it as a mystery. I thought not.

I needed a Plan B. I would submit it myself to small independent traditional publishers. I’d researched and tried some of them before, with my memoir, only to be rejected or ignored. I thought my novel might do better. 

Using my handy elevator pitch, synopsis, and query letter, I submitted. This time it was easier because most small publishers prefer you to do so via Submittable. Six months later, I was ready to admit that this wasn’t going to work either. The only publisher who came back to me loved the novel, but wouldn’t be able to schedule publication until three years hence, and since I’m approaching the shady side of seventy, I didn’t want to wait. 

Plans C and D were all that remained. Plan D was to self-publish—the least expensive way to go. But that would mean a huge learning curve and a great deal of subcontracting. Cover design, formatting, ISBN numbers, proofreading, distribution…the list went on and on.

So, I turned to my Plan C, hybrid publishing, and here’s why. A good hybrid publisher offers all of the things I mentioned above: design, editing, proofing, and even marketing. They require more research than traditional indie publishers, because the quality of their work, and their prices, vary enormously. 

As part of my due diligence, I bought a book from each of the presses I was considering, to check the quality. Some had awful covers, bad cover copy, or typos, and I discarded them immediately. Some kept the rights to your work for several years, and I heard some horror stories about trying to get them back. They were out too. 

I was left with a short list, and contacted some of the authors they’d published, to ask them about their experience. Only two candidates remained, and they both wanted my novel. I decided to go with the one that allowed me to approve every step of the production process, could publish within nine months, and let me keep most of the royalties. 

It had taken me three years to figure it all out. Here’s hoping this article will help you get there quicker.

Visit Gabi Coatsworth


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

#IWSG Day and It's National Novel Writing Month!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Jean Davis, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diedre Knight!

Today’s question: November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

We need hosts for December, January, and February!!! These are tough months so if you can help, we will be most grateful. If you have never co-hosted, please volunteer. It’s a lot more fun on the co-host side. Really! You get a ton more visitors, meet a lot of new people, and get to showcase yourself as a writer/author.

We also had some great articles here last month:

Top Book Giveaway Platforms and Tips to Leverage Them for Book Promotion Success

Six Ways an Author Can Turn Away Fans Online

Podcasting for Authors - Hosting and Guesting!

Have you ever participated in NaNo?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Top Book Giveaway Platforms and Tips to Leverage Them for Book Promotion Success

By Damyanti Biswas

As an author, whether you are trad or self-published, the bulk of book promotion now falls on your shoulders.

One aspect of book promotion is a giveaway. A giveaway tends to be popular because it lets readers have a shot at snagging a book for free, or even win some additional swag. Not necessarily because most readers cannot buy books or depend on free books for their reading: a giveaway usually turns into a community event, bringing readers together while a book is given away.

The more entertaining a giveaway, higher its chances of being successful. Yes, giving away a kindle or expensive customized swag like tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, candles etc can be the ticket to drawing a larger audience. Big publishers give away such items for their lead titles.

I have found though that it is possible to get readers excited about far lesser priced items that suit a typical author’s budget.

 The ad copy you write in order to announce a giveaway or the video you use, can often pique a reader’s interest. Giveaways also tend to be platform-specific and what works for one platform may not necessarily work for another.

With the information below, I have tried to collate giveaway ideas on various platforms, and what you can do to promote them better. Here are a few platforms on which to do giveaways:


Goodreads isn’t the world’s best-run site, but it IS a behemoth. Readers still flock there, and entering your book for a giveaway will attract a lot of readers. You can give away kindle or paperbacks, and the fees are steep.

My publisher invests in the giveaway, and every time someone enters, it puts the book on the Want to read list of the entrant. Their followers are notified, and if those followers trust the entrant’s opinion, they might add your book to their Want-to-Reads. This happened with my book The Blue Bar, and I did see a direct correlation between pre-order numbers and want-to-reads.


If the Goodreads giveaways look like too big an investment, try . It is a smaller but better run site and more readers are flocking to it each day. The giveaways are cheaper, but they also draw a smaller audience. I plan to experiment with this platform  soon but have heard good results from author friends who have tried it.


On Instagram, I've had the best results with book giveaways when a bookstagrammer hosts it instead of me. The hosts have a minimal investment in terms of just creating a graphic and making a post, and the giveaway usually asks for a Follow for them. I take care of the shipping costs and the ARC. It doesn’t directly lead to higher sales but it increases the visibility of the book cover. I also use it to thank the authors who have been kind enough to blurb my book. In that case I ask for a Follow for the host , for me, and the wonderful author who has blurbed my book.

This is simpler for me because my publisher puts my ARC on Netgalley, and also sends out physical ARCs. If you have your book on a site like Book Funnel, it is possible to give away an E-copy and thus reduce the investment.

Bookstagrammers who like your work can be a very supportive community: all you have to do is interact with them professionally over a longer period and genuinely engage with their posts. So many from my bookstagram family have helped me with cover reveals and reviews for the Blue Mumbai books. They know that their relationship with me will remain unaffected whether their review is positive or not.


On Facebook, giveaways work best in readers’ groups. Not many  such groups allow giveaways by authors but the few that do are very supportive and helpful. I've had many of the readers in these groups become super fans who have followed me all across my social media and reviewed all my books. Depending on your genre, here are a few groups that you can explore: Tattered Page Book Club, Psychological Thriller readers, Psychological Thriller Authors and Readers Unite, The Booklounge for Readers and Authors. If you develop relationships with the admins of these groups and interact throughout, you will receive amazing support.


A newsletter outlasts all social media. If the growth of your newsletter is organic (like mine has been) even a small engaged audience can do wonders in terms of reviews and spreading the word. I try and do giveaways as often as possible on my newsletter in order to keep my audience more engaged and invested than ever.


I don't run giveaways on my blog but some of the big reader blogs can be very effective in putting your book in front of a larger audience. Most of these blogs work with large publishers but if you make good relationships with other bloggers they might let you do a giveaway in conjunction with a guest posts. Research who the big readers in your genre are, and if they have established blogs. Some of them also tend to run very successful book clubs.

Twitter (X):

This platform is down but not yet out. Giveaways by book reviewers often gain hundreds of entries and put the book cover in front of a large audience. I'm giving away a few copies of my ARC's via book bloggers and the response has been tremendous.


These are just a few of the platforms you can explore in order to spread the word about your book.

To make a book giveaway successful:

1.     Having a professionally made and striking book cover is absolutely crucial to the success of these giveaways. Readers do indeed judge a book by its cover.

2.     Don’t make the ask too big for the reader to enter the giveaway: usually a few likes, shares and follows do the trick. Make sure to ask an interaction question which will lead to more comments, or to tag/ post in stories to increase reach.

3.     The giveaways may not always lead to reviews—sometimes they do, at others they don’t, but having your book cover seen by a lot of readers is very worthwhile.

4.     Interaction with readers is key. A giveaway is not a make-it, shut-it, forget-it deal—readers are there as much for the interaction and engagement as they are for the freebie.

5.     Don’t lose sight of your voice as a writer—the more the reader sense your presence behind your giveaway posts, the more engaged they’re likely to be.

When a reader interacts with your book on one social media they are shown more advertisements of your book by Amazon and Facebook. If your publisher is placing ads, then doing these giveaways will reinforce these book covers in the minds of the reader.

Marketing wisdom says that a consumer needs to see a product at least seven times before making the decision to purchase it. Book giveaways help in providing that visibility and repetition to your book and your author brand.  All reviews are a bonus.

You can get quite creative about doing book giveaways on a smaller budget: all you'll need is to build your author platform: stable relationships with readers and book reviewers will create willingness to champion your book.

Have you participated in book giveaways on other platforms? What has experience with book giveaways been like?



Damyanti is currently based in Singapore. Her short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, Puerto del Sol, among others, and she's the coeditor of The Forge literary magazine

 She's the author of You Beneath Your Skin, an Amazon-bestselling crime novel, which has been optioned for screens by Endemol Shine. Her next crime novel, The Blue Bar was published by Thomas & Mercer USA. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and Goodreads named it one of 2023's Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon, is out on 24th Oct, 2023.

Her popular blog Daily (w)rite, where she speaks about the writing life and interviews publishing professionals turned 15 this year. Find out all about her and her books here.