Kelly Schuknecht: The Highlights Reel (part 2)

Today we continue the work began in last Wednesday post as we farewell our longtime contributor Kelly Schuknecht. Kelly is moving on from Self Publishing Advisor to take on new challenges and we wanted to revisit some of her best and most popular posts here. Here are three more posts that really went down in the record books with us and our readers!

self-publishing in december

Here’s a gem for the ages! After all, it’s an evergreen subject; every author needs constant reminders of just how easy it is to miss errors in one’s own work, and of the need for extra eyes on any unpublished manuscript before it goes to press. This post, first published in 2010, really connected with its audience–and that was before Kelly updated the post with further tips and tricks in 2016. This post, and its update, has been one of our top performers of all time, and for good reason: Kelly walks readers through how to utilize an editor, how to get those extra eyes on your work, how and when to leave the manuscript as finished, and several suggestions on how to read the material by your lonesome and still achieve excellent results (clue: the words “out loud” and “backwards” are both used, but not together). This post serves as great proof that good writing will always be good writing, and therefore suggestions on how to craft good words will also remain steady.

Have you even thought about Amazon’s BXGY lately? Chances are that you haven’t, since the program was phased out soon after Kelly’s original post in 2008 (one of her earliest!). It’s worth checking in on the original post just to see how far Amazon’s sales algorithms and promotions have come; back in 2008, this post was so popular it almost broke our analytics, but these days for obvious reasons it’s a quiet corner of the blog. If there’s a moral to be learned here, it’s that the only constant in the age of the internet is change, and Amazon is no exception–and one of our missions, as self-publishing authors tasked with marketing our own books, is to adapt to those changes and try to get ahead of the curve … if we can. That’s one of the reasons we write this blog!

Last but not least (for today, that is), we bring you one of the blog’s highest-performing posts of all time. As with her post on tips and tricks for finding errors in your writing, Kelly’s suggestions in using your first chapter to boost book sales has a serious and ongoing following–because the information is still useful and valid. And yes, Kelly did an update of this post too (in 2016), and it too is a high-performer (statistically speaking). In her original, Kelly walked us through how to use Amazon, email, and even Craigslist to host the first chapter of your book and gain those “preview purchasers,” browsers who are unwilling to commit to a purchase unless they have a chance to look inside first. In her update, she touches on using social media as well as the Kindle app, two of the most popular ways to discover new material these days. We have the feeling that this blog will have a very long-term following, indeed–and we definitely recommend that you check it out (old and new) and leave us your own feedback. This is a post that ought to constantly evolve to fit the times!

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every week to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 2)

Last week, I launched a new summer series on self-publishing, particularly as regards publishing and marketing your book during this busy time of year–and how to take advantage of our July theme of freedoms and independence while doing so!

Today, I want to talk about the flip side of freedom.

You might call it … UNFREEDOM*.

(*After all, there has to be some sort of language to describe the opposite of ‘freedom’ which isn’t problematically tied to this nation’s long and deeply troubling relationship to captivities of various kinds … right? I’ll make the attempt, while recognizing and honoring the tight spot into which the English language … and the history of American expansion … has put me. Here goes!)

Point: Self-publishing authors are constrained by their circumstances, and therefore limited as marketers of their works. Let’s slow down and look at some of the speed bumps in our way!

independence, bird


The first constraint you’re likely to hear about when talking with self-publishing authors about their marketing attempts is how difficult it is to find the time to market well! After all, most indie authors aren’t living lives of leisure; they’re working, sometimes multiple jobs, to pay the rent and bring in the groceries. They usually have families; often, young kids and sleepless nights are also on order. In this kind of typical environment, it’s hard enough to find time to sleep much less write much less market your books for sale to the general public! And this problem also often inspires a great deal of self-doubt and frustration, as the marketing goes on.

Why don’t people just buy my book already? Hint: if it were that easy to sell books, traditional publishing houses wouldn’t have dedicated marketing staff, either! As a self-publishing author, you’ve written and signed a contract with yourself to do whatever it takes to become a published author … and that includes signing away a large chunk of your time.

Suggestion #1: Protect your time by slowing down long enough to sort out your priorities, and set a schedule that is both ambitious … and attainable.


Here’s the other big speed bump, right? If you don’t have the time, energy, skills, or access to do what needs doing in order to market your book, you’re going to have to fork over some cash to make it happen! Of course, how much you spend is going to vary greatly depending on what path you take towards publication; vanity presses often tout their marketing successes, but often prove disappointing in results anyway, and the really good self-publishing companies–with dependable, expert staff who’ve been in the business long enough to give you a really good leg up–cost a pretty penny.

Spending some money is unavoidable. Breaking the bank … is.

Suggestion #2: Guard yourself against both amazement and disappointment by doing your research ahead of time. Don’t trust a company’s own press releases for your data, either! Do your due diligence and check out customer reviews, and as with my suggestion for time, go ahead and slow down long enough to plot out what services you can take care of effectively on your own … and which ones you really need help with!


Alright–it’s time to take a deep breath and feel your body for a moment. Are you sitting in a chair? Criss-cross-applesauce on the hardwood floor? Hanging from the rafters? Are you comfortable? Are you feeling … a little … sleepy?

We’ve mentioned this every now and again on SPA, but it’s always worth mentioning again: a person doesn’t wake up each morning with endless energy! Energy is a budgeted resource, and your body has no qualms about letting you know when you’re close to running the tank totally dry. Like, right now, my eyes are burning from having worn contacts all day, my knees are aching from walking in to work, and I can’t stop yawning no matter how hard I try–all of which are signs that I’m about a half hour from keeping the neighbors up with my zzzzs.

As a self-publishing author, you need to pay close attention to your energy level: it comes at a premium, and just like time, once it’s spent you’re done. There’s no writing when tired, and even coffee will only get you so far. Sleep, my friends, is inevitable!

Suggestion #3: Build some select mindfulness-based practices into your daily writing routine. Check in with your body when you sit down in your chair. Are you actually feeling good and comfortable–and energetic? If your body is screaming “NO MORE! I CHANGED THIRTY DIAPERS TODAY!” then it may be time to back off, allow yourself to get some sleep, eat the right kind of meal, and do a thing which brings you joy. Make a promise to yourself to come back the next day in a better frame of mind and body, and I guarantee you’ll produce better work–work you can be proud of!


Look … we’re not all born with a Wacom tablet or a Master of Business in our hands! It’s okay if you don’t know how to set up social media accounts … THIRTY DIFFERENT WAYS … or how to design your own book cover, including blurb, ISBN, LOC numbers, and so on and so forth.

Knowing what your skill set is, and how best to take advantage of what you already know how to do, is absolutely imperative! So, too, is knowing where your skill set runs out, and therefore when you ought to turn to established and verifiable experts–such as those employed at various self-publishing companies, or working on a freelance basis.

Suggestion #4: Before you sit down to submit your book for publication, sit down and sketch out all of the different little processes which go into making a book, from start to finish. EVERY SINGLE ONE. (There ought to be at least thirty!) Only then can you come back and say–“Ah, yes, I can easily take care of those, but not anything to do with Goodreads giveways or writing a press release!” Listing everything will feed straight back into allocating where you spend your time, money, and energy … so make sure you get it right before the wheels are in motion and momentum is pulling you in another direction!


Last but certainly not least, one of the most oft-mentioned barriers to self-publishing–an unfreedom–is the strictures placed upon indie authors by those with the knowledge and access to make things happen. Indie authors are often left out in the cold, with no recourse but to generate their own networks and influences from scratch … which, yes, can work but often doesn’t. Meanwhile, traditional publishing houses–who have, by the way, refused to evolve to fit the changed world around their signature markets!–snigger behind their hands and offer little or no help at all … because, I assume, they don’t want the competition.

Oh, if only you could imagine all the wonderful ways we might help each other!

But what a pipe dream. Traditional publishing houses have good reasons (from a business point of view) to try and uphold their monopolies by restricting access and denying support to indie authors looking to break out. I’m talking about everything from email lists of potential customers who they hold in reserve, contracts denying their authors from collaborating with self-publishing authors, and so on.

Access is a big problem for indie authors. If you don’t know who to get in touch with to get this certain thing done, it doesn’t get done.

Suggestion #5: Don’t despair. As I’ve mentioned, some authors have made it! There are some existing networks and resources in place to help you … but just don’t expect to find easy access to knowledge and the means to act upon that knowledge within more “mainstream” or “traditional” circles. I mean, take us for example. We’re here for you–every week!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 1)

july 5th fifth

We all know that self-publishing and independence go together, right? Or at least, that’s the general idea, and the ultimate goal. We kick off the constraints of the traditional publishing houses, their heavy-handed contracts and royalties disputes, and waft our way over to the Elysian fields of indie bliss ….

But that’s not how self-publishing works, is it? Yes, you’re independent, but independence comes with a price tag. And this isn’t some fatalistic attempt to push you, our readers, towards traditional publishing (believe me! we hate it as much as you do!). The fact remains, however, that when it comes to self-publishing, you get what you pay for, and the rest you accomplish through elbow grease.

So … how does one market as an independent, self-publishing author? Is it even possible to rival the promotional work of the Big Five when all you have is a halfway decent laptop, debatable graphic design skills, and very little free time? How do we break free from Big Business but still sell books?!

The simple answer is: it’s hard … but totally possible. And we’ll dive into some of the pros, cons, and various logistics over the Wednesdays to come. Stay tuned for more musings on a marketing theme! (And say that ten times fast.)

Tomorrow, Royalene will be talking about how self-publishing intersect with the personal freedoms we so value here on our side of the pond. Watch her space for more excellent “independence” advice on Friday mornings this summer!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

From the Archives: “By virtue of the term: Self-publishing”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: October 14th, 2010 ]

Digital democracy. iTunes changed the record business forever. Blogs have reshaped the landscape of traditional print news. YouTube challenged the way television and advertising CEO’s communicated with the viewing public. Who would have thought even ten years ago that a majority of users would value a user-generated encyclopedia over Britannica?

Technology has quickly and powerfully changed the way we think, enjoy, communicate, and create. Across each industry one thing holds – a democratization effect – where artists make the rules.

On-demand and digital self-publishing is equally shaking things up. As the WSJ notes, “once derided as ‘vanity’ titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”

“Playing God” in his book Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven, former Yankee pitcher opted to self-publish in order to maintain his content control. A wise move that is rumored to have been opted into a movie project reuniting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

democracy definition

The democratization of self-publishing is a big deal, even seven years after we originally mentioned it. With our current grab-bag of print on demand services, self-publishing companies and vanity presses alike, we have an enormous quantity of titles available to readers for affordable consumption–and while few of them get printed in any quantity, is that really an undesirable thing? I mean on a large scale, not an individual one. Clearly it’s better for the individual to have more money in the wallet than otherwise. But a democratic system is a diversified one, with products and services to meet every preference. And that’s where we are, more or less!

So how does this democratization help authors? As someone who has dabbled in both nonfiction and memoir, here’s one way:

Traditionally, nonfiction authors were required to draft outlines and preliminary chapters, submit these to agents and publishing houses for review, and hope that someone would like that material enough to give them an advance–money to help them do the research required to write the rest of the book. Research, generally speaking, is expensive–especially because for nonfiction it usually requires travel, lodging, meals, and subscription or access fees to information repositories like museums and so forth to complete. Many wonderful nonfiction books have not been written simply because authors weren’t able to give publishers a real sense of what their book was about because the money had to come first in order to really do so….

Self-publishing, however, has co-evolved with a whole host of crowdsourcing options. I have at least one friend who financed her book over Kickstarter with some success, and others who have been even more creative. (But that’s for another post. Soon, I promise.) These alternate revenue streams mean that self-publishing authors don’t have to wait on anyone’s say-so, and they don’t have to sacrifice any creative control over the research, writing, and publishing experience to an institution which will always value its own success over its authors’. So nonfiction authors, in this situation specifically, benefit a great deal from not being dependent on an advance. The same holds true for fiction authors in all of the most important ways, and you only have to follow the career of poet Rupi Kaur to see how self-publishing can indeed be more than congenial to that third great genre.

Of course, the idea and status “commercial author” may be on the way out, or at least these authors who’ve chosen to struggle through the traditional publishing model may have diminished opportunities. Fewer authors each year see the virtue in being one of these so-called “starving artists,” who make their way in the world based on an antiquated publishing model which never treated them well in the first place. This is okay. It’s also okay to be a starving artist, by the way. I just wouldn’t want to be one, and it’s no longer the only model of a successful artist anymore.

Self-publishing still has its flaws. But anything that makes publishing possible for more authors, more affordably, and guarantees them more rights and freedoms, is a democratizing influence. And I love democracy! The fact that self-publishing also makes reading more affordable and a more diverse experience can only lead to good things.


Fun Note: A quick foray on Google reveals that as of 2015, at least, Peterson’s book is still under development by Affleck and Damon, so that’s another ray of good news.

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

In Your Corner: Know Thyself … And Thy Readers!

There once was an ancient Greek aphorism: “Know thyself!” It was inscribed over the entrance, or forecourt, of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi–where the ancients used to go in search of supernatural wisdom or before battle, in hope of a cheerful word from the oracle. Socrates the philosopher invoked it, and therefore millions have read it down through the years:

socrates know thyself

What does Socrates and the Delphic maxims have to do with self-publishing? Quite a lot actually, if you ascribe to my theory, which is that to sell books you must know your readers and how to target them precisely, and if you want to know your readers you had best know yourself pretty thoroughly, too.

Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the resurgence of interest in mindfulness, which these days is often closely associated with meditation, spirituality, and environmental justice. Those are all great things, and while I think self-understanding is probably a crucial part of all three of these things, they’re not what I’m primarily interested in today. Today, I’m interested in examining the nexus between self-published authors and their readers, a nexus which we are bound and required to understand if we want to break even on our publishing expenses. In this context, being mindful of both your own self and your readers is critical.

(Boy, do I feel callous saying that. But it’s true.)

The fact of the matter is: selling books is dependent upon this peculiar relationship, and as many counselors and therapists are likely to tell you, while you can’t control the other person or persons in a relationship, you can control what you do.

So how do you get to know thyself?

  1. Make comparisons. Not, like, in terms of quality of your book! But identify a handful of books which are similar to your upcoming one in theme and content, and start jotting down characteristics which they seem to share. And … yes, you need to do this before your book comes out. Ideally, long before your book comes out. It will help you frame your promotional work as you start seeing what material these authors are putting out–blog posts, newsletters, YouTube video updates, etc–to reel in their readers. Experiment with these modes, and hone a few new skills. Nowhere does Socrates say that the self is monolithic and unchanging!
  2. Listen up. Yeah, this one seems totally obvious, but a lot of authors tend to find a system that they feel comfortable with and stick to it, even as it slowly becomes apparent that they’re not actually reaching their readers. So, listen. Listen, and be willing to alter your attack vector when it comes to marketing. Don’t keep doing a thing just because you like it or because you’re comfortable with it. Your feelings don’t sell books; your readers’ do. A part of self-knowledge is understanding what you’re feeling at any given moment, and simultaneously recognizing that others may or may not share these feelings.
  3. Go for the soft sell. Self-publishing is all about the relationship between you and your readers, and you’ll get nowhere by pushing your agenda (selling books) over developing real and authentic relationships with your readers. If you’re not willing to partner with your readers in this endeavor, then that’s something you ought to know about yourself, and adjust accordingly. As in, find yourself a marketing coach or perhaps even a social media manager to do some of this work for pay.
  4. Plug the gaps. Not like a boy with his thumb in a hole in a dike (man, where did my parents come up with some of their little anecdotes? It’s amazing what sticks!) but as a student of the self and and of relationships. Where are your weaknesses? A hint: usually they’re somewhere close by when you find yourself uncomfortable with some particular aspect of the publishing and marketing processes. Pay attention to feelings of discombobulation and discomfort, and either by yourself or with an expert sit down and start drawing up a list of skills to develop or strategies to adhere to in order to accommodate these weaknesses. For me, structuring my day-to-day routine is a nightmare, and this leads to spotty engagement online. That’s a weakness. But it’s a weakness that, like most other weaknesses, can be dealt with using a jot of foresight and good planning.

If you know yourself, you’re most of the way down the path to knowing how to reach your readers. And as Dean Koontz says:

dean koontz readers quote

You are not alone. ♣︎


ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.