January Writers' Forum

Welcome to the Forum:  In my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll pull together the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward.

General Publishing News

In addition to being a writer, I am (of course) an avid reader. I am always excited for the American Library Association awards’ announcement each year. Here’s the link to see which books won and those who were in the running. A lot of very nice titles to add to our reading lists!

I’m a big fan of Jane Friedman’s newsletters. She’s smart and to the point with comprehensive knowledge of publishing. Her summary of the industry in 2016 is worth the read. 

Take away points:

  1. The market for adult fiction is primarily digital.
  2. Amazon’s market share is growing across all formats (print/digital/audio).
  3. Amazon is cracking down on what they view as suspicious or “scammy” activity.
  4. Self-publishing is still growing with a fascinating shift. (Check out the growth in the number of CreateSpace titles.)


Pre-Publication Information

Publish Your Own Book: Self-Publishing Tips and Costs

I wish that I had a checklist list like this when I first began my independent publishing journey. Duke Diercks walks authors through the step-by-step process of bringing your manuscript to publication. Each of the areas he covers could be separate blog post, but he brings the key points together in one place along with links that let you learn more about specific areas. (He references both Joel Friedlander and Tim Grahl who I consider excellent resources for the independent author.)

Diercks is a big fan of the Scrivener software, which I am not familiar with. I use Jutoh ($39) for formatting my e-books (thank you Christine Keleny at CKBooks Publishing for the advice to buy that software). I have also successfully used the downloadable word template for last two paperbacks with CreateSpace, after spending what I considered to be too much money to have CreateSpace format my first paperback. (I’m happy to answer questions about my experience if you are in need of advice.)

His point that you should publish your paperback both on IngramSpark and on CreateSpace is valid. You will have a more favorable relationship with bookstores if you distribute directly through Ingram because they typically do not want to work with CreateSpace products, in part because of the profit margin but mainly because it is a division of Amazon. (If you plan to do this, just be sure not to check “expanded distribution” inside your CreateSpace dashboard.)

Post-Publication Information

Goodreads Giveaways

I have created many book giveaways and contests but never one on Goodreads. I was happy to see this step-by-step approach on how this works from Catherine Ryan Howard. I’ll be sure to write a follow-up to this once I’ve done my own Goodreads giveaway in the first quarter of 2017. (I’ll also write about my experience with Rafflecopter and creating your own contest.)  

Indie Book Reviews

It’s easy to dismiss this step after getting a book ready for publication. After all, we’re tired by this point. Even if we hired professionals for some of the tasks, the process is arduous. But you’re missing out on the attention your book deserves if you don’t send your book out for review. (Now, this is often a pre-publication task as well . . . some reviewers will want the book in advance and others only after publication.)

Here are three of my favorite reviewer sites. Not all of these are free, some come with a small fee. You’ll have to decide for yourself if that is worth it in your publishing budget.

Midwest Book Review (free for physical copies/$50 for e-books)

Not all books submitted will be reviewed. There’s an approximate 4 – 6-week window for a book to be assigned out for review. If your book is not, there is a policy in place that allows you to submit another review for inclusion in their email newsletter.

Readers’ Favorite Review Service (free) 

Readers' Favorite Review Service

Books submitted for the free review service have an approximately 50% chance of getting reviewed in the three-month window. They only post four and five star reviews to their website. Express reviews are guaranteed within two weeks at the cost of one for $59, three for $129, or five for $199.

IndieBRAG ($50/title) 

IndieBRAG: Review Service & ContestIndieBRAG is a combination review/award program. BRAG stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group. Their submission page explains that indieBRAG exists to discover talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. To help indie writers do this, we offer a unique book evaluation and award process known as B.R.A.G. Medallion.

My first novel received a B.R.A.G. Medallion and the support from this readers’ community is excellent. They’ll continue to promote your book on their website and offer other excellent chances for promotion via their blogs and special blogging opportunities if choose to participate.


Please let me know if there are topics you would like to see addressed or if you have some advice you’d like to share. You can comment below or email me at: Valerie@ValerieBiel.com. I’d love to hear from you.

You can find me on these social media sites where I frequently share updates on book news and my writing journey:






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