Monday, June 24, 2024

Six Things I’ve Learned About Promoting My Debut YA Novel by Carol Baldwin




The best advice I received in my seventeen years of researching, writing, revising, and editing, Half-Truths, came from my publisher, Jennifer Lowry, of Monarch Educational Services. I had two years before my book, set in 1950 in my hometown, Charlotte, NC, would be out.  Excitedly, I told Jen I was starting my next teen historical novel with the hopes she would also be interested in publishing it.

“Don’t work on it yet,” she said.

“What?” I couldn’t wait to research a two-timeline two-POV book that would be a prequel to Half-Truths.  (To be honest, I’d already started.)

“Why not?” I asked her.

“You’ve got work to do on Half-Truths.”

I knew that there would be rounds of editing, but that was in the future. What could I possibly do now?

“You need to start building connections in Charlotte.”

Disappointed, I put aside book #2. I’d learned to trust Jen’s publishing wisdom, so I started thinking about who I hoped would read my book and how I would connect with them.

I’m glad I did!

Here is what I’ve been doing for several months.



Tip #1: Create a Professional Website and Print Business Cards

If you don’t already have a landing place on the internet, now is the time to create it. For years I was content with a blog on which I posted book reviews and Half-Truths’ journey. When I looked around at other author’s sites I realized that mine was dated and cluttered. I wasn’t up to creating my own, so I hired a website designer. Now librarians, event coordinators, educators, and readers can find out about me, Half-Truths’ backstory, events, and my writing workshops.

Websites give you online exposure, but business cards are a tangible reminder to strangers of who you are and how they can connect with you. Trust me. You’ll feel like a star when you give them out.


Tip #2: Be ready to talk about your book to anyone.

I wear a t-shirt that reads, “Just a Girl Who Loves Writing.” A man recently stopped me on a walk and wanted to know what I was writing. He was standing outside of his church giving away bottled water to passersbys. I gave him my pitch, and my business card and told him I’d love to come to talk to his church about my book. But here’s what I failed to do—I didn’t get his contact information to follow up with him later.  I won’t repeat that mistake!

By the way, if you have a shirt or hat with your book cover on it, you will also wear it to book events and to the grocery store. You can use it as a giveaway or sell it if you have an online store. It’s multipurpose!

Susan Pless and her grandson help promote her debut picture book Scaryotyped.

Shannon Anderson has a different t-shirt for each of her picture books.

Stephanie Cotta advertises her Iron Kingdom series when she is out and about.

While we’re talking about swag, check out this water bottle sticker. It’s a conversation starter for Angelique Burrell and her YA book, Mark in the Road. 

Read more about Angelique Burrell’s books here.


Tip #3: Be Nice.

Smile when you’re wearing your t-shirt or swinging your bag with the image of your book cover on it. Make eye contact. People LOVE meeting real-life authors. You might be the only one they (or their child) will ever met. Be prepared to say hello to your future reader.

Diane Brooks gives away plastic snakes when she sells her debut picture book, Simon the Snake.

Respond to emails and comments on social media. (You are on one or two platforms, right?). Follow up with genuine appreciation when someone reaches out to you. Remember how your mother taught you to be nice? She was right.


Tip #4: Promote other authors.

This has been said a kazillion times but it can’t be underestimated. Other authors are your friends--not your competition. Think about how you can do signings or book events together. It’s fun and you can share the expense of renting space at a community event, farmer’s market, or holiday fair.


Tip #5: Start a spreadsheet.

Your goal is to have so many ideas of people you want to contact that you’ll need a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.

            At Monarch, the undeniable king of book marketing and spreadsheets is 14-year-old Adrian So. His chapter book, The Groundworld Heroes, debuts in August, 2024. He has spent months working on his marketing spreadsheet. His pages include:

          ARC’s – date requested and reviewed

          Physical copies promised

          Bloggers and book influencers (including Bookstagrammers, BookTokers)

          Library contacts

          Book subscription boxes


          Corporate booksellers, retailers, zoos

          Indie bookstores

          Trade reviews, competitions, awards

          Media outlets

          ARC sharing groups on X

          Cover reveal participants

Each of these pages includes websites, contact information, and Adrian’s notes to himself.

       Since my book is a historical YA which hopefully both adults and teens will enjoy, my spreadsheet also includes pages for:

          Schools—private and public

          Area universities that might be interested in a history or kidlit program

          Fairs and events

          Homeschooling groups, local and regional events


          Community organizations and venues

          STEM organizations

          Book clubs (adult, kid, mother/daughter)

          Senior centers and retirement facilities





Tip 6: Follow up on each name, organization, or media outlet on your spreadsheet.

Yes. This is time-consuming. And yes, it will pay off. Adrian received amazing endorsements from authors in his genre which will make excellent cover blurbs. As a result of my connections, I’m planning events at a local Charlotte history museum, two historical societies, several libraries, and a women’s club. And I’ve only just begun.




Writing your book was a huge endeavor. You want to do as much as possible to get it into the hands of readers. The days of having a publicist who will spend time and money on getting your book noticed are rapidly diminishing. If you sign a contract with a house that has a publicist she will still expect you to make local and regional contacts. If you signed with a small trade publisher or are self-publishing, even more work falls in your lap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some leads to follow up on.

And you have some work to do.


Carol Baldwin is a full-time writer, part-time publicist for Monarch, part-time gardener, and part-time golfer. She enjoys teaching writing to teens and adults; reading, and promoting clean reads. In her spare time, she dreams of her next book, Out of the Flame. She’d be happy to hear about your marketing efforts. Please connect with her here.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Navigating the Writer's Landscape: Overcoming Insecurity One Step at a Time


By Colleen M. Story

This month, I’m releasing my seventh book. It’s a historical fantasy called The Curse of King Midas and I’m super excited about it. 

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d be here.

Like most writers, I had to overcome a lot of obstacles on the way.

If you’re still getting your boots stuck in the swamp on your journey to writing success, I have one message for you: refuse to give up.

You’ve heard it before. But it’s more than a cliché. It is the secret to writing success.

The Writing Journey Is a Difficult One

When I first started writing, I told nobody. No one in my family was a writer. I hadn’t gotten a degree in writing. Who was I to write?

The desire to write stories came out of the blue, hitting me one night while I was in the store. I bought a word processor (shows you how long ago that was!), took it home, and started writing.

I wrote for years and no one knew. I was afraid to tell anyone. I feared I would fail, so I figured it was better to keep it to myself.

But the longer I wrote, the more it became a part of me. I wanted to write another story and another. Then I wanted to publish a book.

I had a lot of days where I came away from my writing sessions feeling high as a kite. But I had just as many days when I figured my dreams would never come true, and it was stupid to continue wasting my time.

5 Steps to Mastering Your Writer’s Mental Journey

Looking back, a few things saved me from being one of those many writers who gave up too soon. Perhaps they’ll help you keep going, too.

1. Investing in myself.

It was hard to do this early on. Every time I thought about going to a conference, signing up for a workshop, or having a professional editor or coach go over my story, I agonized over the decision. I worried it would be a waste of money. And I didn’t have a lot.

No matter where you are in your writing career, investing in your betterment is the best thing you can do to increase your odds that you’ll reach your goals. Save the money. Take the time. You won’t regret it.

2. Setting goals.

We all have to get in our million words (or whatever number it takes) to become the writers we’re meant to become. Nothing substitutes for plain old words on the page. That means establishing a regular writing practice and sticking to it.

Setting goals for myself—daily word counts and yearly story goals—kept me working toward my deadlines. Otherwise, it would have been far too easy to put it off until tomorrow and tomorrow, and never.

3. Celebrating milestones.

The first time I got an editor’s positive comment on a novel submission, it felt amazing. The publishing house didn’t accept the story, but the editor told me to keep going—that the story would be published. (And it eventually was.)

We have to cherish and celebrate every bit of encouragement we get. It’s not selfish. It’s not bragging. It’s motivation.

You’re likely to suffer a lot of hits along the way, so don’t hesitate to tape those encouraging statements—whatever they are—to the wall where you can see them. When you get that one-hundredth rejection, you’re going to need them.

4. Tapping into my emotions.

They say that writers have to develop a thick skin.

I say let your emotions drive you. If a rejection discourages you, go ahead and cry or rage or whatever you need to do. Quit writing if you have to. If you love it, you’ll come back. I did.

If a review fills you with joy, tell your friends. Dance around the house. Shoot off the champagne. Proclaim yourself the next bestselling phenomenon.

Our stories thrive on emotion. We can’t tamp them down and expect to write well. We can’t become automatons and continue to hone that sensitivity we need to step convincingly inside the shoes of our heroines as well as our villains.

Don’t repress your emotions. Use them.

Let me share a story. I had been writing novels for years. I hadn’t gotten any closer to that publishing contract I really wanted. One night, after another rejection, I got angry. Ticked off. So perturbed that I spent the night researching publishers and firing off submissions.

I’ll show them! I thought.

A few months later, I got my first publishing contract.

I learned two things: One, emotions are helpful as long as you use them in a constructive way. Two, you have to spend just as much time getting your work out there as you do creating it.

5. Embrace my inner artist.

For the longest time, I couldn't admit to being a writer. It took me longer still to embrace the identity.

It’s good to recognize that we humans have a lot of things in common. It can help us write from multiple points of view when we tap into those similarities.

But it’s also helpful to realize that as writers, we are different. When we embrace that difference and nurture it, we are more likely to move closer to our goals.

Think about it. We have all these imaginary friends that we care about. We live their lives with them. They become a part of who we are. Who else has that?

We need time to create, but we also need time to come back after a discouragement. We have to release the stories inside us, but then we must refill the creative well. We regularly dig deep to pull out of ourselves the very best we have to offer, but then we rise to the surface to joyfully share it with others.

We struggle and fight and fall down and get back up again and no one else knows what the journey is like.

Don’t expect them to get it. Your family, friends, or acquaintances won’t understand unless they’re writers too. Accept that. Then embrace your inner writer. Give yourself what you need to thrive. Inspire yourself. Encourage yourself. Educate yourself. Motivate yourself. Share with other writers—it helps. But in the end, you’re the only one who can do it.

Who are you?

If you’re a writer, never forget it, and refuse to give up.

Note: Get a free inside peek at The Curse of King Midas here, along with stories from Colleen’s writing life.



Colleen M. Story is a northwestern writer of imaginative fiction as well as a musician, freelance writer, and writing coach. Her novels include her upcoming release, The Curse of King Midas, as well as The Beached Ones and Loreena’s Gift (a Foreword Indies award winner). She also writes nonfiction books for writers and creators. Find more at her author site ( and motivational site for writers (