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The Gallery System: Art and Books in Revolution

March 24th, 2014 . by Peggy

This is a short speech I wrote several years ago, while living on Gabriola Island, in the San Juan islands near Nanaimo, BC. Watching art and books in revolution, and surrounded by indie artists, I saw a parallel between my own work as an indie author and their work as independent artists, each selling from their own studios on a small rock in the middle of the ocean. The impression of those vibrant artists has not waned in the years since, and I found this essay while clearing out a file cabinet last weekend. I hope you see a similar revolution happening around you.

ID-100214827As a young fine arts student studying to be a painter and sketch artist, I was coached by well-meaning teachers and professors who wanted all of their students to achieve commercial success. There’s nothing more rewarding for an art teacher than to witness their student actually pay a mortgage with the revenue from their creative efforts. But now, as an adult with a generous amount of business experience behind me, I can now see where Artists, and Authors, are being ripped off.

I often compare the current traditional bookselling system, where a big publisher buys work from a writer and distributes it through large chain stores, to the way art sales are managed by galleries. What I call “The Gallery System” is how a gallery finds marketable painters, sculptors, and other visual artists that fit the commercial definition of good art (whatever that means), and put their paintings on display in the well-lit large front window of a gallery. Passers-by feel confirmed in buying work they don’t have any deep feelings about, because of the artificial validation that buying from a large gallery gives them. We are robbing the next generation of the ability to think critically about art and literature.

Here’s the really naughty part: when the painting sells, the artist only takes a small portion of the profit. I know many wonderful artists that have altered their work to make it more palatable to this market, thereby not only sacrificing their own artistic integrity, but also denying a hungry art-buying public the opportunity to discover and experience something new.

Galleries (read: bookstores) plunge the work of the artist directly into an extremely competitive market, often without the benefit of additional insight for the consumer. Try attending a gallery exhibit opening sometime, and notice the similarities between that and a book signing. But now, living in an “art-friendly” community, I’m extremely pleased to see that the art (and book) buyer recognizes the cachet of visiting the studio of a working artist – and buying direct.

This revolution is well underway in the arts community. And more than the way money changes hands is being affected: a wider variety of mediums are gaining mainstream recognition, and artists are spreading their creative wings. A previously-unidentified audience for non-traditional work is clearly out there doing some serious shopping. The line between art and craft is more blurry than ever. And the art of the people, folk art, is no longer segregated into a movement.

It is very clear that self-publishing, and the selling of books directly from the author to the consumer, is the manifestation of this same spirit in the publishing world. Authors now have access to the same tools that large publishing houses do. They are thinking of their books as tools for marketing their businesses and other products. Fine printing gives credibility to their statements. And they are receiving equal critical recognition to any other author.

What about balancing business needs with artistic integrity? This is achieved more easily now than ever, because the author retains all the control. Their work is no longer subject to commercial critics that stifle creativity early in the process. The way this works is because of and old axiom, which I see proven again and again: art cannot exist in a vacuum. We must write so that others can read. Otherwise, our writing is a purely selfish act. Outside of writing for self-exploration, which makes us better writers regardless, we must write for an audience. By considering our audience, which is the second rule of quality writing*, we automatically satisfy the needs of an increasingly clever book buyer. The integrity of our writing is inherent, and intelligent readers will buy all they can get their hands on.

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5 Tips for Using Images To Market Your eBook

January 27th, 2014 . by Peggy

Using images to market your eBookIf you think pictures speak louder than words, you’re right. Here are some tips for using images – beyond a snapshot of your book cover – to market your eBook.

Tip 1: Don’t release anything on your blog or social media without including an image.

Just like real people, Google loves pretty pictures. Including an image in any type of post will always increase the relevance of that post to Google and other search engines. Also, it’s harder for people to ignore a compelling image than to ignore words. Images tell the story faster – what do you want people to understand in a heartbeat? Take a picture of it. Tweet pictures, not words. Post pictures on Facebook pages, not words. Add an image to each and every blog post – at least one! Just try using images to market your eBook for a week, and measure your traffic to your blog before and after.

Tip 2: Take pics of yourself in interesting situations.

This was a tough one for me, because I hate the way I look in photographs. My nose looks its true size, I can suddenly witness how bad my posture is, and so on. But putting yourself in context of situations relevant to the readers of your book is important for things like building trust with your audience. Plus, it gets you recognized in a sexy, rockstar-author kind of way. I have been recognized at everything from a real-estate open house, to shopping at Wally World, of course book conventions, and even when I renewed my driver’s license. At first, it will make you cringe, but after a while, you’ll relax about it and understand that people don’t expect you to be perfect: they just want to talk to you about your book, or in my case, their book.

Using images to market your eBookTip 3: Make the photos yourself instead of buying them.

While there are plenty of places to get cheap images for using in this way, I strongly recommend taking them yourself. First of all, it’s cheaper. (We are all writers, so let’s face it, we’re not spendy types.) But equally important, it’s faster! I can snap a fast photo with my phone, and it’s online within seconds. I prefer pictures of people, but I will also snap a quick shot of things like really great cars, attractive window displays, a lovely sunset, beautiful gardens, book covers I like, and so on. It doesn’t need to be directly related to you or your book, but it does need to be interesting. Always offer a comment to the photo, such as, “I like this because the designer has placed such-and-such next to so-and-so…” or the reverse, as in, what’s bad about it. Invite controversial opinions, but always be polite.

If you think you can’t find enough things that are interesting, you’re not looking hard enough, or you have an even worse social life than I do. Try harder. Use Hootsuite (free, by the way) to include photos in tweets, Facebook posts, and so on. It uploads the photos for you and makes it super-easy.

Tip 4: Four Legs Good.

Have you ever heard this expression in the world of TV, radio, or journalism? People love dogs and cats, and other furry, scaly, or feathered friends. (At least, I’ve *heard* people like cats – I don’t, but I promise not to hold it against you if you do.) Animal photos will always get more attention. This is very evident on the web: look at the plethora of adorable pet photos out there. I’ve even taken a few myself.

Tip 5: Include photos of words, such as interesting quotes.

Easy to make these yourself! Use automated websites for this such as, or There are TONS more of things like this, but you can also do it yourself in something like Photoshop if you have it. The reason this is important is because it adds visual interest to the text we’re trying to enhance here. People will look at a picture of words more than they will look at actual words. ‘Tis true.

Obviously, using your book’s cover image is important in marketing your book and your brand as a whole. All I’m saying is, “Don’t stop there.” There’s so much more to say with pictures.

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Are You Making These 4 Kindle eBook Writing Mistakes?

January 11th, 2014 . by Peggy

Are You Making These 4 Kindle eBook Writing Mistakes?I’ve had some excellent questions lately from new and experienced authors. Here are the most common 4 Kindle eBook writing mistakes, and I’ve seen these over and over again for many years, by authors in all genres, from all backgrounds, previously-published, and first-timers. We should all go a little easier on ourselves.

1) Writing “other stuff” while you work on that novel.

I think all but one person who has contacted me so far in 2014 has said something to the tune of, “I’m writing a series of short stories while I work on something bigger…” or, “I’m writing some non-fiction how-to books while I prepare my novel.”

I’ve made this mistake myself, and I’m warning you not to. In almost every situation I’ve witnessed for clients and myself, this strategy shoots itself in the foot. The “main thing” never gets written, because you exhaust yourself on the little stuff, which doesn’t make you any money. Maybe you’ve been told that there’s more money in non-fiction – NOT TRUE, absolutely not true!

Here is what is totally true: what makes money in the Kindle business is repeating a successful recipe over and over again. Imagine it this way: people come to a pie restaurant to eat pie. Do not offer them roast beef. Make more pies of similar, but slightly varying flavors. Make a LOT of pie. Make it regularly – on a predictable schedule if you can. Don’t fuss too much if one crust is a little darker than it should be, or if one tasted OK, but it’s not the best you’ve ever made. Just get that pie baked. Don’t practice for making pie by baking cookies, or lemon poppyseed loaf, or muffins. Just start with baking pie – the first one might not be the best, but you will get better. You will learn what ingredients to use, how to shop for them, what to layout on the counter, what appliances you need to use… etc. (Is she still talking about writing eBooks? Yes.)

eBooks make money when written in series. Give the people what they want, and stop d***ing around. (Pardon the expression.) You are only delaying the day you cross the “profit line”.

2) Spending too much time building plot, planning, editing, etc.

“It’s still in editing,” and “I need to go back and re-write some sections,” are things I hear every day.

While I would never suggest you don’t edit your work, it’s sooooo easy to over-think this and over-edit. What does your audience want? If you’re writing fiction, it’s probably escapism. If you’re writing non-fiction, it’s probably to solve a problem. Does the manuscript accomplish that? Today? Right now? The way it reads at the moment? Yes? Great – hit publish now. You can always release a new version later, by updating the orginal file and re-uploading it. Stop torturing yourself. You’re going to make me cry.

3) Worrying about graphics and design just to write a Kindle eBook.

OK, so obviously, with a Kindle eBook, you don’t need to worry about this. Kindle is a text-based format. There is no graphic design required to put a book on Kindle. In fact, the more your manuscript resembles raw, plain text, the better it will look on a wider variety of devices.

Releasing both print and Kindle editions at the same time means that some planning must go into planning look and feel, but even when you do want to include images and some special fonts, this should not stop you from doing the real work, which is writing.  If you want to include some images to match your print edition later, just re-upload another source file.

Bear in mind that the more you try to control the look and feel of something that is inherently a text-based format, the less control you will ultimately have. That same file may look great on an iPad, but it will look verrrrry different on a Kindle Paperwhite, or an Android phone, or on a Kindle Fire, or on an iPhone. Don’t think in terms of page layout – start thinking in terms of a stream of clean, uninterrupted text, with occasional .jpg’s inserted for interest, and an attractive cover design, which is essentially just a pretty picture.

4) Using other services, like Smash*****, and the like.

There was a time when I endorsed the use of Smash*****, but no longer, as I’ve now seen waaaay too many clients have problems with them. In my opinion, they over-promised and under-delivered. You’re not alone, as this might be the most common of all Kindle eBook writing mistakes.

Instead, get comfy with your Amazon Kindle KDP dashboard, which you can view anytime, on a wide variety of devices, at This is where you can upload your eBooks, (or at least, approve and publish them after I’ve done the formatting and programming for you), run sales reports, get marketing tips, be part of the community of other KDP authors, learn ways to put your books on sale and do extra promotions online, etc., etc… Short story: you don’t need anything else besides that KDP link above to make your eBook a success. Just stick with the basics and you’ll have it all under your control, with no middle-men.

Feeling better?

I thought so. Remember, all these mistakes are common, but you don’t need to be so tough on yourself, and your beautiful Kindle book.

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New Year, New Writing Schedule

December 31st, 2013 . by Peggy

Is 2014 the year you write your eBook?Is 2014 the year you really want to get that book written?

Whether it’s a breakout novel, a business book to help your company or build your profile, or just a creative explosion, 2014 can really be your year. I’m totally revising my newsletters into a once-a-month inspiration email that will give you all sorts of reasons to keep writing. It’s a like writing class that you don’t pay for!

Each month will include:

  • Downloadable writing calendars and writing schedule mini-poster for your wall
  • Punctuation mark of the month, including usage tips and examples
  • Monthly themes and writing prompts
  • Writer’s Wrecipes – my personal collection of brain-and-heart-feeding soul food
  • Writing contests and events worth knowing about
  • Recent Kindle stats and top sellers
  • Client Spotlights including cool real-world secrets to share with you
  • Tech tips to solve marketing and publishing problems we all experience
  • Monthly specials on products and templates to make your writing easier, cheaper, and more enjoyable

Be sure you’re signed up! Click here to sign up if you haven’t already:

I’m on a mission of my own in 2014

… to finally get that historical novel of mine written and out there! I’ve spent over a decade working on various non-fiction projects and a few novels that are frankly, not that hot. :) Although I’m a trained technical writer and researcher, I’ve never studied how to create fiction. But this book is special – I’ve had it in my bottom drawer and in that dusty corner of a hard drive for years. I’m sick of fantasizing about it – I want to experience the writing of it! I’ll share my own writing trials and successes as we move through the year. I’ll tell you frankly what works for me, and what doesn’t.

I’m also giving myself permission to fail on this project, which is a very uncomfortable step for me. I’m not happy when I make mistakes, but I recognize that as a serious character flaw, and I want to work on it. If you have tips for me, I welcome them!

Let’s spend 2014 working together, inspiring each other, and getting books DONE!

Again, be sure you’re signed up for the monthly newsletter list by clicking here:

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Paulo Coelho on Writing and Procrastination

November 25th, 2013 . by Peggy

You’re not the only one with a problem to do with writing and procrastination. Just start, says Paulo Coelho.

This short video not only shares the author’s feelings about the problem all writers face, but contains a really cool book trailer from Germany about his latest work, Aleph.

In case you’re not familiar with Coelho, he is the Brazilian author of The Alchemist, the story of the shepherd who travels to Egypt to pursue his “Personal Legend”. It is from this book that comes the now very popular concept of the universe working in mysterious ways to help you achieve your greatest desire. Coelho is known for writing regularly, now authoring over 30 books, although he had a rocky start. Yes, this man knows about procrastination – he had at least one failed career and had been living as a counter-culture type (Can we say hippie?) for some time before settling down to do what he had always known he should do – become one of the world’s best-known novelists.

I found it particularly interesting that Paulo acknowledges the distractions of social media. Perhaps this comes from his uphill fight to market his books to the international success he now experiences. He’s no wimp – he knows that you not only need to write, but to think about the business of writing. He has used video contests on Facebook to help market his books, tweets regularly, and has an active volunteer life around social change issues. He’s also known for his approach to open-source content, and yes, he writes up to three blog posts a week. (Sound familiar? I’m not the only one who keeps saying this!)

This is the 4th video is a series. The others can be viewed on Coelho’s blog,

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How-to Quickie: Make a Memorable Affiliate Link

November 22nd, 2013 . by Peggy

Are you using this free and easy method to create memorable affiliate links for your books?Memorable affiliate link setups are easy, and here’s a quick video to show you how to create a link you can simply mention to anyone.

Great if you’re now regularly making affiliate links from items on Amazon – especially linking to your own books and eBooks! It’s always important for authors to show off their books on Amazon in a memorable affiliate link you can just say to everyone you meet, put on your business card, or in a QR code. It’s really simple using this fast trick.

Learn more about how to create the account and memorable affiliate links in the first place…

at Affiliate links are not unique to Amazon, of course, and affiliate systems tend to spit out a lot of loooooong messy code that nobody can really work with. Here’s a safe way to control those links permanently with an attractive and memorable affiliate link.

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Short eBooks to Build Your Author Platform

November 20th, 2013 . by Peggy

Short eBooks to Build Your Author PlatformHere are three ways that both fiction and non-fiction authors can use short eBooks to help build your author platform.

In all three of these cases, I’m talking about creating a short eBook, typically less than 5000 words, and perhaps as little as only a few hundred, perhaps including charts or diagrams or other illustrations. This doesn’t mean you skimp on things like proper editing or creating an attractive cover. It just means that the work is short, and acts as a good introduction to you and your work. It should showcase the best you have to offer, and be representative of the major eBook or product you have to sell.

1) The eBook as List-Building Tool

This is a simple thing to setup and figure out, and is often talked about in marketing circles. The basic setup is that you offer a free eBook when people sign up for your email list. You get something, they get something. Everybody wins. This is very easy to setup using tools like, and

The basic stream works like this:

a) User arrives at your website. They click on a signup link for your list, which says something like, “May I offer you this free eBook.”

b) They reach a landing page – hosted by the automated list-building system of your choice (see list of tools, above) where they enter their email address and hit “submit”.

c) The list system automatically sends them a confirmation email, to make everything legal and CAN-SPAM compliant.

d) They click on the confirmation link in the email, which pops them to a thank-you page. On this thank-you page is where you have placed a link for them to download your eBook.

e) The automated list system sends them one more message, thanking them, providing confirmation that they are indeed subscribed, and offering them the link to download the eBook one more time, just for safety.

They are now subscribed to your email newsletter list, plus they have a copy of your mini-eBook in their hot little hands. They are now getting to know you and like your stuff.

2) Setup An Automated Mini-Class or Series of Mini-eBooks.

This sounds like much more work than it actually is. If you’ve created a series of short stories, or if you are a non-fiction author, perhaps a mini-class delivered in videos or the like, you can just add more automatically delivered emails to the chain first described above. These are usually called “autoresponders”. For most systems, you specify these to be delivered X number of days after the user makes the first action. So perhaps chaper 1 is delivered on day 1, chapter or video link 2 is offered on day 4, chapter or audio file link 3 is delivered on day 6, and so on. The main advantage of this over option 1 is that you are more present, in a systematic and predictable way. The more you are under their noses, the better.

3) Use the short-term promos or “cheapie” eBooks to lead clients to your larger works.

Let’s say that your major took-half-your-life-to-write-it novel is currently selling for $10 on the Kindle platform. Or, let’s say that you’ve got products on your website that are where you make your main revenue. Kindle allows you to place your eBooks on sale for 5 days out of every month, and you can use their new “countdown specials” to put eBooks on sale for a limited amount of time, right next to a ticking clock that compels readers to act now before the bargain runs out. These short works, whether they be chapters that were left on the cutting room floor, or still-valuable introductory material to your major products, are then a perfect way for new reader to get to know you, adding themselves to your list of fans. Be sure to insert “sign up here for my mailing list” links at the back, as well as links to your blog or major website, and of course, to your other works on Kindle and on your other websites.

Mini eBooks are a quick and simple way to create more roads back to you and build your author platform very quickly. I would try several approaches and see what works for you.

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Are eBooks All Hype?

February 22nd, 2013 . by Peggy

Are eBooks still all about hype?I’ve read a number of articles lately about how eBooks are “still a bunch of hype”. Seriously? What year is this?

I work with both eBooks and print books every day, typesetting print books and doing layout for eBooks (mostly Kindle), and designing covers for both. I know this is going to get me some virtual kicks for saying this, but I have to say, these articles read like they were written by someone who doesn’t really understand digital book platforms. Of course eBooks are not going to be just like paper books. They can’t, because they serve different markets. It’s like comparing Texas BBQ to foie gras. Both are delicious. But they come from opposite sides of the world. Neither is perfect. We consume them for totally different reasons.

Libraries have issues, definitely, due to the immaturity and polarity of the eBook industry. We’re not yet good at making it easy for eBooks to support public and open-source community. Do people read differently on paper than they do on a device? Of course – I do, too. But is the eBook killing paper books? Hurting Authors and readers? Absolutely not. That’s a rather fearful and immature thing to think. (Yeah, another kick.) Many might argue that the reason eBooks are becoming such a hot debate is because it’s one of the relatively few intimate ways that technology touches more people than ever before. Banking electronically is a huge part of our lives, but it’s not emotionally-based, ie, intimate, like our reading choices.

The other main thing that these commenters seem to have forgotten is that eBooks really are still in their infancy. Think about it this way: we have multiple influencers, all with their competing idea of what might be the perfect format and platform. Nobody can agree on anything, even the uber-simple stuff like how to align text or handle fonts. The devices are still, for the most part, single-purpose, which has no place in our future. We will look back years from now and realize how ridiculous this argument is.

I must say this, no matter how cruel it sounds: to debate the whether-or-not of eBooks as having a place in our reading world is very behind the times. I mean, of course we’re going to continue to distribute and archive content digitally. (Duh.) Whether or not is the question – it never was. What is worth debating is the how. We’re in the toughest phase of any new industry, which is deciding on standards. In all likelihood, nobody will be happy for a while, because we’re still not working together for common platforms, and all of us still (wrongly) think we’re in competition with each other. It’s silly.


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Setting Your Self-Publishing Sights Higher

February 18th, 2013 . by Peggy

Setting Your Self-Publishing Sights HigherAll the smart self-publishers these days are using techniques like speed-implemented print on demand, which is low-risk and high-yield. However, be sure you’re still thinking like a big-business publisher and using some classic business-building techniques.

I totally advocate the use of Print-On-Demand (POD) services like The low-risk approach, the profit comparisons to major publishers, and the speed-implementation mindset are all things I really admire. However, be sure you’re not missing something that I make sure all of my clients are aware of from the get-go: publishing is a go-big or go-home business. I’m not saying increase your risk, but there are a number of small things that will make a big-thinking approach pay off. You can be all-in emotionally, without losing your wallet.

Let’s assume you’re a great writer. Your topic is timely, you’re credible, you know who your customers are, and you are very logical in your overall strategic business approach. Many authors do this, sell a fair amount of books, and have every right to be proud of themselves, especially if they sell the equivalent amount that a publisher asked them to commit to for the book project – a major accomplishment, to be sure.

But, what I don’t see many doing is hitting the pavement to simultaneously push your book through multiple outlets, including an affiliate marketing program, small retail outlets, and a wider non-business (or parallel-niche) audience. I would love to see more indie authors practicing good online marketing activities, like building a list of interested customers. You don’t have to sign up for anything to get many author’s free stuff, which is nice for us, but very bad for the author’s business. I would also like to see more authors move their RSS feed signup (the way people get the blog posts delivered to them in their inbox) to someplace more visible on your site. I want more podcasts. I want online training. And I want more interactivity.

Many author’s blogs get buried within their current site, meaning you have to click around the find the blog, which could be their biggest mistake. Make it the first page! The first thing people see! Even if you’re freelancing other writing, and selling a decent number of books anyway, think bigger! You could be building a wider following, and enhancing your personal profile, in minutes a day by making the blog the forefront of your website. If your existing website is a little flat, pump it up, and correct any lingering usability issues like buttons that don’t quite work the way you want, etc. Polish it up to a nice shine.

Why don’t all writers set their sights higher? A good book is hard to come by, and I know many writers that have several, each worth bragging about – yet they don’t. When one book is not wonderfully profitable, the next one is harder to write. Even if your self-publishing business doesn’t seem to be suffering, waiting until that is happening is the wrong time to start additional marketing activities.

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4 Things Your eBook Cover Designer Should Also Create For You

December 3rd, 2012 . by Peggy

Whether you’re creating your own eBook cover, or hiring someone else to design it for you, that’s a great time to create additional graphics that will help build your eBook business.

It’s often cheaper to order these items at the same time as your cover design, and easier if you are designing it yourself, because all the source materials are already at hand. Graphic unity is very important in a virtual business, to build credibility and trust, and increase discoverability of your product.

Below are four key areas that you should get done ASAP.

1) Social media icons and headers.

Recently, iTunes changed their image requirements for things like podcasting and personal icons. You know, that square icon that identifies Atlanta Rhythm Section from Peter Frampton? (I’m old. Get over it.) Your image that fits that space can also be used on things like Skype, Twitter, and many, many others. One graphic of 1400×1400, in .jpg format, is all you need across all those platforms, and it should include a professional headshot of yourself. Check out mine here.

2) Banners for affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing should be a core part of your long-term marketing plan for your eBook. Even if that only means inviting others to use Amazon Associates links back to your eBook on Kindle. If you plan to use your own in-house affiliate program, so much the better. Having graphical ads that hilight the use of your key graphic elements should be an essential part of that. Here’s your chance to use your book cover design and really put it all out there. Here are some recommended sizes for those banners, below. (Click the image to open it at actual size, so you can see how big the banners will actually be.)

3) WordPress header or banner for your landing page.

It’s important to have a clear image at the top of any web (WordPress-based) pages that you plan to use for your book’s blog or sales page. In WordPress, the standard 2011 theme uses an image of 1000 x 288 pixels. This should ideally include an image of you, and your eBook. The clearer the better.

4) Images for use on social media, especially Pinterest.

This is different from ad banners – you’ll want some other fun and playful images to use as you promote the eBook, such as a 3-D cover, samples of the cover in several small sizes to avoid pixelation on the web, etc. Pinterest, the photo sharing site, has changed this to be an entirely new ballgame. Here’s a great place to share fun and unusual iamges that others will feel compelled to share in return – with a trail of breadcrumbs that lead back to you. For example, do you have a series of great headshots that were not all used in the eBook or on the cover? Here’s the place to use them. Is yours a cookbook? Be sure to get some images of you interacting with food, or shots of the recipes themselves. What about action shots? You, out and about in the community? Near landmarks? Even better, what about video? At the very least, be sure to have a library of images that you build on an ongoing basis. Your designer can help you crop and modify them for use almost anywhere, including your Facebook page or Twitter, but especially Pinterest.


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