Christmas in July – Cover Reveal Help Wanted!

I’ve been a bit quiet about my big publishing goal for 2019. Partially because I’m trying a different strategy with this book, and partially because I wasn’t sure it would actually happen on schedule, and partially because it’s a little “off brand” for me.

However, the time has now come to start announcing that… actually… I AM going to be releasing a new book this calendar year!!!

Cue Excitement!

Two years ago, the worship director at our church asked me to write a poem for our Christmas service. She wanted something in the style of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, but felt like everything she’d been finding was either depressing or not the right cadence. So she asked if I might be interested in writing something original for her.

I was honored to do so and had a lot of fun with the project. The worship director found an artist in the church to create a couple of original paintings for what I’d written, put it together into a slide-show and also got it bound into book format. When I saw it in that form factor, the wheels started turning! I thought, “Wow… I think… I think I just wrote a children’s book!”

I then continued to work with the artist to get a few more paintings done, and then I’ve been working with a fantastic graphic artist to pull everything together and design the actual book.

I got the proof copy on Wednesday and it is SOOOO gorgeous! I can’t wait to share this little project with you!

(Of course, I immediately spotted a typo on the copyright page, and for some reason the proof copy had the story printed TWICE within the covers… no idea why that happened. So… we do need to do a bit of tweaking, still. But that’s why you don’t trust the e-proof and order a physical proof copy!)

So it’s about time to start putting together a cover reveal for this little story. This is where it gets tricky. Like I said, it’s a little off-brand for me. This is not an epic fantasy novel. It’s not even fantasy-themed. It’s a Christmas-themed children’s picture book. So I totally understand if members of my “tribe” don’t feel like they can participate. Keeping to a brand is important. I just can’t juggle… so I’m not going to create a pen-name for this story.

However, I have put together a sign-up form for anyone who feels they might be able to help out with a cover reveal or is interested in a digital advance reader copy for review. My plan is to release this book on October 1st – and the Silmaril Awards start September 2nd – so in order to avoid colliding with that and still be a bit in advance of the release date the cover reveal is going to be on August 21st.

Thank you in advance to anyone who is willing to help out!

~ jenelle

Summer School – Self Publishing Edition: Newsletters

Summer School Graphic 2019

Today we tackle the subject of NEWSLETTERS! Ah, newsletters. I’m a bit of a newbie at this one, but I’m learning, so you can learn right alongside me.

Some of your questions included:

What is a newsletter? How/where can I create a newsletter? How do I get people to sign up for my newsletter? What are “newsletter swaps”? What does a fiction author write in a newsletter?

Simply put, a newsletter is an avenue of social media that allows you to interact with your readers by sending them information straight to their email inboxes. I have been assured by many, many authors and marketing gurus that, “yes, newsletters are necessary.” But I resisted them rather vehemently until about a year ago. For a good nine months, my newsletter sat around 25 subscribers, about 90% of whom never opened the notes I sent. I was at a loss. I couldn’t see the point of having a newsletter and I couldn’t think of a thing to write in them.

Personally, I don’t love getting newsletters. I subscribe to a few, mostly to see what authors I admire PUT in their newsletters! But I rarely have time to read them, and I’m often guilty of letting them sit unopened in my inbox for months before I get around to them. I MEAN to read the ones I sign up for… but I only have so much time in my day, knowwhatImean?

However, I couldn’t just ignore the advice of so many people much more marketing-savvy than I that newsletters are one of the best marketing tools available to an author. So I kept with it.

Let me pause for a moment here and address that second question:

How/where can I create a newsletter?

First of all, you can’t just send a newsletter from your own email address. Well… you CAN, I suppose, but if your list grows too big you’re going to get in trouble with your email host pretty quick. So, you’re going to need to use a service of some kind.

If you are just starting out and your audience is somewhat small, I would recommend either Mailchimp or Mailerlite as a jumping-off point. I am currently using both of these services, and I like things about each of them.

Mailchimp will allow you to have up to 2,000 email addresses before they start charging you for their service. Be warned, however, Mailchimp just upgraded their policy to include “unsubscribed” addresses in your list towards that number. So you’re going to want to watch that. You can be pretty happy using their free service for a long time, however, until you get to those higher numbers. It’s a good place to learn the ins and outs of creating newsletters and has some nice automated features and schedulers, as well as a fairly intuitive user-interface for creating nice-looking newsletters. Once you get above 2,000 subscribers, however, it gets pricey FAST.

Mailerlite will allow you to have up to 1,000 email addresses before they start charging. They are slightly less expensive than Mailchimp, and I find their user-interface to be even easier to use and navigate than Mailchimp’s. However, they have a “unique subscribers” clause per month, so if you send out an email to say, 700 subscribers and 50 of them unsubscribe, and you then manage to add 350 new subscribers, you cannot send all 350 new subscribers a welcome email until that 30-day period is over, because you would have sent an email to more than 1,000 unique subscribers in that period. Yay, math!

Both of these options have some handy analytics and you can see who is opening your emails, who is clicking on the links inside your emails, etc, etc. You can also go through and weed out people (like myself) who haven’t opened any of your last 5/10/20 emails. (Or send them a note asking if they want to stick around).

Sendy is an option that I am currently looking into, because I’m about to outgrow my free category in both of the above services, and my writing career does not yet support the ability to spend upwards of $50/month on emails. I’ve heard some good things about this from an author I know who uses it and the price of only $1/10,000 emails is pretty tempting. I haven’t used this one myself, but I’ll keep you posted if I switch over on how it compares with regards to ease-of-use.

A couple of “good to know” things up front: 1) most of these will only let you use their service if you have a self-hosted domain email address. You can’t use a gmail or yahoo address, you have to have an @domainnameyouown and 2) they will require that you include your physical mailing address. If you are uncomfortable with handing out your physical address you have 2 options: 1) don’t have a newsletter, or 2) get a PO box and use that.

Okay, so, now that we’ve covered that. Let’s get back to my story, and that question of how to increase your subscriber count.

(hopefully not in any villainous ways….)

There are many ways to increase your subscriber count. I still believe that the best way to grow your audience is one follower at a time. However, this is a slow process, and there are other options. I’ve used a couple of these for growing my newsletter.

Giveaways, group events, and list-builders. This is where you join some sort of group event or giveaway and ask people to subscribe to your newsletter for a chance to win something. These can run as small as you just doing it on your own site by yourself, or joining a bigger group or even a list-builder.

A viral list-builder is where a group of authors who all write similar types of stories get together, pool some money for a fabulous grand prize, and then set up a giveaway where anyone who signs up for the giveaway understands that to enter the giveaway they are agreeing to subscribe to the newsletters of every author involved.

In the past seven months, I have participated in two such list builders (organized by Silver Empire, which has some great info on their site about what a viral list-builder is and how it works) and have grown my own newsletter list from 137 to nearly 3,000 and it’s still growing! (Hence my need to find a different service solution soon!) Now, a few of them unsubscribe as soon as they get they welcome email, and a few filter out after that, but some stick around, and several have even been truly delighted to find me through the giveaway and regularly reply to my newsletters and have downloaded or bought my books.

I’ve also participated in smaller list-builders through book-funnel, which is similar, except that instead of a grand prize, everyone who signs up also receives the ability to download a free book or sample from each participating author.

But what do I write in my newsletter? 

I’m really still learning this, myself. I’ve done a little bit of experimenting and I’ve come to this conclusion:

Shorter is better.

When I try to cram too much into a newsletter, I get a lot of unsubscribes.

I have a tendency to want to treat a newsletter like what its name implies and include tons of NEWS and a bunch of stuff that I think should be interesting… but I’m learning that people don’t like that. They don’t want to read a lengthy newsletter, they want a single snippet and then to move on with their day.

What people seem to like:

  • Snippets (sample chapters of what you’re working on or have already published)
  • Free books you recommend (this gets into newsletter swaps, which I’ll talk about in a moment)
  • A tidbit about you and your life
  • Something funny
  • Pictures
  • Big Announcements (cover reveals, call for ARC readers, new releases, free book, etc)
  • Giveaways

And finally, newsletter swaps.

These are, quite simply, exactly what they sound like. If you are sending out a newsletter at a specific time, you put out a call to other authors you know and see if any of them have a freebie or a big announcement that coincides with your newsletter going out and offer to include it if they return the favor for you in their own newsletter sometime.


And that pretty much wraps up everything I know or have learned recently about newsletters. There’s a LOT to digest here and a lot I’m still learning. If I didn’t cover something and you really want to know, please feel free to ask in the comments. If I can answer, I will, if not, I will try to direct you to someone who can!

Do you have a newsletter? Do you subscribe to newsletters? If you subscribe to them, what are the things you like to read in newsletters? If you have one, what do you write about? Any tips or tricks you’ve discovered that work for getting/keeping subscribers? Anything else you want to chat about? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!

~ jenelle

Using Social Media to Reach #1 On Amazon: Guest James Quinlan Meservy

Summer School Graphic 2019A few weeks ago, a friend and fellow indie-author received one of those most-coveted orange “best seller” flags from Amazon. Knowing that he had been working hard on social media to attain that #1 rank, I reached out to him to see if he might be willing to share some of the methods he put into practice to get there. He agreed to put those thoughts down for you, so I’ll turn the podium over to him.

Using Social Media to Attain a Best-Seller Rank on Amazon


James Quinlan Meservy

Jenelle was kind enough to ask my thoughts on promotions on Social Media, and I hope what I have to say may be useful to you.

Here is what I did when I hit #1 in FREE DOWNLOADS & #1 IN SALES with “Sykar the Volkrog” but be warned, some of the things I did are now against Facebook Community Standards, and I recommend finding a method of promotion that will not get you banned from Facebook, or put in FB jail, or suspended in group activity because the BOTS monitoring FB activity flag you as spamming.

When “Denizens Among Us, The Realm of the Light Book 2″ was released, I wanted to increase my personal seller rating, so I posted my perma free books, “Welcome to the Realm of Rai, A Rai Saga Short Story,” and “Sykar Meets the Flause” in FREE book groups on Facebook, posted self promos on IG, Twitter, MeWe, my blog, my newsletter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. I also asked friends and family via Messenger to help me reach my goal by sharing my promo posts, and asking if they have purchased a copy of either book yet.

I also updated my keywords and categories on Amazon using advice from an author friend.

Then I continued to post in my free & book promo groups on FB (about 10 groups an hour with different text every 5 groups) until I hit #1.

After I hit #1 twice in Free Downloads (I personally believe I was premature in saying ‘bestseller’ because they were free, but I was so emotional at finally seeing one of my books as #1 of sales in any category, Free or Paid, that I was not thinking straight and overly excited) I KNEW I was a bestseller in PAID categories, I envisioned myself as a bestseller in a PAID category for a few years now, and was determined to hit #1 with 2 paid-for titles. So I did everything the same as above, only with my 2 titles which were on sale for $0.99, ‘The United, The Realm of the Light Book 1′, was on a promo sale at the time, and ‘Sykar the Volkrog’ is a perma-$0.99.

Sykar gained traction in its category and started selling, so I continued to promote it, whereas The United was not going anywhere in its category. As I started gaining sales, I started taking screen shots of Sykar’s progress, and posted it on Twitter, my Author Page on FB, IG, and my other Social Media accounts with headlines like “Sykar is at #6,” “please help this adorable puppy become a bestseller,” and my personal favorite “let’s beat Pickachu” (the #1 in my category was a how to draw Pokeman book, when Sykar was at #2.)

Apparently my posts gained some attention because Sykar the Volkrog eventually hit #1.

Side note, I tried some different strategies on my page and blog that DID NOT work, such as “everyone who posts Proof of Purchase of the Kindle edition of ‘Sykar the Volkrog’ will receive a free audible code for the audiobook edition.” Only 1 person commented a Proof of Purchase.

I only hit #1 in sales with Sykar for a couple of hours of Amazon, and am still trying to figure out how to hit #1 on different sales platforms. This is still very much so a learning process.

Moving forward, here are my recommendations:

1. Instead of Messaging everyone individually to help me share my posts about my books, I would create a Messenger Group and then invite Friends and Family to Join, and only ask them to copy, paste, and/or share a Facebook link from my Author Page or personal profile.

2. Only ask friends and family to help you share your promo posts if you think they would be supportive and helpful, otherwise you may damage or strain your relationship with them.

3. This is my sincere advice about Facebook promotions in light of the new Community Standards, only post 1 promo post in 1 Book Group every hour or so, so choose your groups carefully.

4. Before going on a big promotional run, build your Newsletter with NL swaps, and your blog with Blog Tours.

5. Creatively think of how to phrase your promo posts. I was informed that asking people to ‘buy’ your book outright is considered illegal, so be careful on your wording.

6. Keep in mind my personal thought, “The only bad marketing idea is the one you do not try, the rest are learning experiences.” Within reason, at least. My strong advice to you is to keep within the standards and guidelines of whatever Social Media Platform and sales platform (generally Amazon) you are using.

White Backrgound, LargeI am James Quinlan Meservy,
Fantasy Author Extraordinaire,
Creator of Creatures,
Embellisher of Events,
And Firebrand,
“Stories that Kindle Imagination.”

Follow James around the interwebs!




Join my reader group for your exclusive copy of my short story, “Jackalopes: The Real Story” featuring a volkrog, a pheonix, and of course a jackalope: JOIN READER GROUP

~ jenelle

Of the Clouds Cover Reveal

Today I am excited to be sharing a cover reveal for my friend Selina J. Eckert and her new book Of the Clouds. Today she’s unveiling the cover, and on August 17th she’ll be releasing the book!

This one looks really fun, and is a Rapunzel retelling, so that’s exciting!

Shaman-in-training Quri only knows her master’s hut…until the neighboring prince arrives, showing her what life could be. Now, she must defy her master, risking all she’s known, to be free. This sweet and exciting retelling of Rapunzel will have you asking what you would do for your freedom.



Make sure you head over to Goodreads and ADD THE BOOK TO YOUR SHELF!


~ jenelle