Category Archives: publishing

From Gene Doucette … an excellent post discussing the collective insanity of the publishing industry

This excellent post written by Gene Doucette came to my attention recently, and I applaud him for hitting the nail precisely on the head with regards to this whole “print books are outselling eBooks!” and “eBooks are dying!” business that has been making the rounds in the media and on Facebook. Friends have sent me these articles and asked what I thought of the early death of eBooks. I’ve always thought this was a load of crock, but didn’t have the evidence … until I read this blog post of Gene’s. What he says here is entirely believable, and I know it is, because I worked for publishers for a very long time and, for the most part, they never wanted to change the industry in any way – as long as it was going their way. When eBooks were first introduced, I saw this new format as a means of reaching an even wider audience of readers. Not so the publishers who were angst-ridden over marketing and selling these new eBooks – but would never entertain any of my suggestions as to how this might be done differently or how it could involve the traditional booksellers as well as the new online sales markets. That’s all in the past, though, because I walked from that job and began using my own new ePublication to test some of these ideas I’d had. So, it was with great pleasure to discover the following post that explains exactly why the claims of an early demise of digital books are just not true. (Thanks to Gene Doucette for permission to reblog this post, which has gone viral since I first read it. Congratulations, Gene!.)


The collective insanity of the publishing industry
February 29, 2016 by Gene Doucette

Unless you’re a writer, I imagine you haven’t been paying quite as close attention to the publishing industry and all its weirdness as I have, and that’s a shame, because it’s been really entertaining.

Actually, entertaining isn’t the right word. It’s been insane, but the kind of insane that’s unreasonably fun to watch from a safe remove. Like watching a man stop traffic to cross against a green light by shouting, “I’ll bite your car!” As long as it isn’t your car he’s threatening, it’s sort of funny.

You might imagine that as an author with published works for sale, I am not at a safe remove when it comes to the publishing industry. That’s sort of true, but only sort-of.

Here’s a superb example of the madness of which I speak, and why I’m not concerned that anyone will be biting my car.

In 2014, there was a drawn-out dispute between Amazon, and Hachette. The latter is one of the largest publishers in the world, and Amazon is a company that sells things, such as books. The essence of the dispute was that Hachette—and all the other publishers we affectionately refer to as ‘the Big 5’—wanted more control over the list price of their e-books on Amazon.

That sounds thoroughly reasonable, and it sort of is, but please let me explain because the crazy is in the details. What was happening was that Amazon was discounting the price of the ebooks, and it may seem like this is something the Big 5 would want to stop, except the markdown was coming off of Amazon’s end. In other words, if Hachette wanted to charge $15.99 for an ebook, and Amazon marked it down to $9.99, Hachette was still paid their cut of the full price of the book.

More people will buy a book at $9.99 than at $15.99, so essentially, the Big 5 was coming out ahead in this arrangement in every conceivable way. They collected royalties at an unreasonably high price point while moving the number of units that corresponded to a lower price point.

So of course that had to be stopped right away. Read the complete post here.

For readers in the US, Gene is running a Goodreads Giveaway for his book, The Spaceship Next Door. Enter here!

So, what did you do yesterday?

Me? Funny you should ask … I finished gathering together the necessary materials, checked one last time to see that everything was as correct as it could be, assigned two ISBNs for ePub and mobi editions, and sent off all the files via email to Human Powered Design in Calgary for formatting. I received an immediate reply from Gina telling me that, not only had she received our submission, but the job was already in the queue and will likely be seen to within this next week. Which means we will have a finished eBook all ready and listed for sale well before the projected date of March 1st I had originally suggested would be the case. Hooray!!

island shorts II

So here’s our first announcement for this new publication, folks!

A new longform short story, written by J. Michael Fay, and titled Passion, will be published by IslandShorts, and we are very excited about this!!

As with Michael’s other publications, once again the original cover art was provided by Karen Sloan of Wallflower Studio Art in Minden, ON.

Michael - Art for Passion -ks A

The indomitable Rachel Small, Faultless Finish Editing, provided the final editing and proofing services.

And here’s a little peek at what all the excitement is about … the synopsis and a few blurbs from advance readers of Passion!

1963 is a pivotal year for Dan James. Believing his destiny was set at the age of eleven when he stood next to his father’s coffin, he enters the seminary at seventeen to become a priest. A well-read fellow seminarian and the world-shaking event later that year cause Dan to question his true passion in life.

Passion is the next in Michael Fay’s series of long-form short stories, following The Whirlabout and The Healer. Along with Tenderness, all have been published by IslandShorts.

Michael Fay studied creative writing with W. O. Mitchell, Alice Munro, and Richard Ford and was also the founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society in Calgary. Michael lives in Minden, Ontario, with his wife, Dr. Fay Martin.

This is a thoroughly engaging story about a young man’s coming of age and discovering while enrolled in a seminary that his calling is not for the priesthood but for literature and writing. One can smell the incense in the chapel and hear footsteps echoing in the stone hallways while young Dan James wrestles with his decision before walking out into a world with much to relish, treasure and describe.
~ Dennis Gruending, journalist and author of Pulpit and Politics

What a vivid evocation. Detail, precision, clarity, and echoes of Joyce: the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Youth discovers vocation. Nice!
— Ken McGoogan, author of Celtic Lightning: How the Scots and the Irish Created a Canadian Nation

In the story of Dan James and his time in the seminary, Michael Fay explores the moment a young man steps into adulthood, and captures with grace and insight the realization that a vocation needn’t be holy to be true.
— Kim Pittaway, award-winning journalist and editor

So, there you have it! It’s not just every day that we at IslandShorts get to press “send” on a new publication! If you’re interested in this new eBook by Michael Fay, please stay tuned and check back to this blog where we’ll be announcing the exact publishing date and availability online, once we have all the links and information.

And if anyone is interested in previous publications from IslandShorts just click here for the list of eBooks and where to purchase. As we like to say …

For a Great Read, Slip Into Our Shorts!

(Anyone interested in reading to review any of our publications please contact me directly: susanmtoy (at)

From the vaults – Publication dreams, and delusions … May 22, 2011

Since I’ve been talking and working with a couple of newly published authors recently, and have written guest posts and given talks on getting your work published, I thought I’d have a look at the process I went through. So I’ve hauled out this blog post I wrote in the early days, when actually seeing my writing in print (these were pre-eBook days, folks!) was still only a pipe dream, but a dream that was shared with many talented friends. Here’s where the design ideas began forming for my first novel, Island in the Clouds, and how an initial concept became the reality. I never did find a traditional publisher interested enough in my manuscript, so I self-published instead and was able to work with that original idea Jenny and I developed a few years before. I have always been pleased with the final result and constantly receive compliments on it! Full credit goes to my friend, Jenny Ryan!

I was chatting online with Jenny Ryan this morning – she in Ottawa and me in Calgary. It’s been too long a time! We first met online while taking the Ryerson Publishing Certificate courses, and have only met in person once, when we were both in Toronto. We hope to meet again this summer, in Toronto, but in the meantime, we caught up today on all of the various things that are happening in our lives right now.

Jenny has always been a terrific designer – she’s a natural at it – having a good eye for cover design even during that first course in Trade Publishing, when we were members of the same “publishing team” set with the task of developing a new list of books for our final assignment. Since graduating, Jenny went on to form a design business, Copper Canary Publishing Services, but now works as a freelance designer. She’s been along with me, almost since the beginning, for this crazy write-and-get-the-damn-novel-published ride I’ve been on, and is a constant source of ideas, comments, criticism, and encouragement the entire time.

I remembered recently that she had also designed a cover for my first mystery novel, Island in the Clouds, just for fun and using a photo I had taken. Here it is …

At that time, I was planning on using my initials for my writing name – until another editing friend pointed out the rather unfortunate double entendre presented by the juxtaposition of those initials with my last name. So now I go by Susan M. Toy instead, there being other SusanToys out there in the world, with a couple of them also being published authors. Yes, I too was surprised by that discovery. Which is why we should all google our names. And why I must now include my initial.

But I still love this particular cover design, and Jenny and I did have fun working on it together. Just as any good publisher/writer relationship should be!

And while this novel may never be published, let alone that this particular cover design be used if I do find a traditional publisher, it makes the entire publishing dream feel as though it’s one step closer to reality.

Thanks, Jenny!

And dreams do have a way of coming true, sometimes! Here’s the final cover (but with a slightly different photo taken by Dennis). It’s all Jenny’s design though, front and back! And that was Jenny’s idea to add the #1 at the top of the spine, too. To keep me working on the rest of the series … Ahem!

island clouds cover spread with spine final

Four Freedom Publishing

Hubert O’Hearn, previously featured on Reading Recommendations, has launched a new publishing company. Here he is to tell us the story behind the inspiration for, and how he’s set up, Four Freedom Publishing.

Readers and Authors rejoice!


Write the Silence/Right the Wrong:
The Four Freedom Publishing Story

by Hubert O’Hearn


It was just as the sun was setting on the second of three days with no electricity, no internet and no food when I realized that life was presenting me with two options: die or launch a publishing company. And here you thought a Harvard MBA was tough?

Journal Entry One:
October 19/2015

The business of writing is hard enough when you can see what you’re doing, but this? The power is off because I have no money and Electric Ireland’s system of taking payments by credit card is disabled. Of course I sent them an emergency email with the dying breaths of my laptop battery but … no response. It’s someone else’s problem and not theirs; it is mine.

I had moved to Ireland from Canada at the end of 2012 in order to live two experiences. I wanted to live in the country I had fallen in love with when I was ten years old and I was going to do it as a writer. There had been just enough writing success in Canada to convince me that if I truly dedicated myself to just that, I could do it: twelve years as a newspaper columnist, six produced plays, several publications running my book reviews, and a decent CV of speech-writing and other This Gun for Hire work.

It’s funny now when I look back at how I arrived nearly three years ago. My bank account was fat, the first house rented was huge, there was even a Jaguar parked in my driveway. Then, a whole lot of circumstances went wrong, more than need describing here. Suffice it to say that by the time my dog Stella and I had, to use the polite term, simplified our lifestyle by moving into a low rent yet comfy duplex cottage in County Mayo I had learned that one really can live without most of what you might think of as ‘necessities.’ Yes, I had become poor and yet, I was (and am) having the time of my life.

I’m no good at reciting poetry from memory – not even my own work – however I do have a deep fondness for T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men, particularly this section:

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

That was where I lived, in the Shadow. I knew who I had been and I equally knew who I wanted to be, yet I was no longer there and was not yet there. I was where I was – taking any writing assignment I could get. There were web content articles, editing books and articles, reviews, interviews, ghostwriting, advertising, receiving a contract to publish a book of poetry (yay!) and watching its sales fail (boo!), coaching writers, teaching, even entering contests provided there was no entry fee. And my ego told me: You’re a goddam great writer and your day will come!

Journal Entry Two:

This is one of those really special moments in a man’s life when he sits back and thinks, “You know, maybe somewhere along the line I might have made a mistake or two.”

Yeah well, could be. On the other hand, if I’d had it to do all over again I’d probably have just done it all again. Maybe take more pictures next time, and more detailed notes for when life brought me right here again.

A Brief Philosophical Statement

The single smartest piece of advice I have ever been told came from my beautiful friend Lydia Cornell (yes that Lydia Cornell). Lydia and I have been ‘sore arm buddies’ for years now, picking one another’s spirits up during various crises. So Lydia one day either said to me or wrote to me the following:

There aren’t good things or bad things that happen to us. There are just things. Whether they turn out to be good or bad depends on what we do with them, how we choose to see them.

Remember that one the next time you feel that ev’ryone’s agin’ me. When something happens that adversely affects your plans, consider that it occurred as an outcome of your life. Perhaps instead of viewing that seemingly nasty episode as some sort of punishment, view it instead as a message for change.

Amen and onwards.

The True Origin of Four Freedom Publishing

Four Freedom Publishing really began as an outcome of a ghostwriting project I was hired to create. Please forgive me for not supplying all the details, however revealing a client’s name or the book title truly goes against the ghostwriter’s creed.

In any event, I was hired by a client to write, format and publish a book on sports. Great fun! I have often said that in my heart of hearts I am a sportswriter; indeed one of my favourite assignments of all-time was when I was a regular columnist covering TNA wrestling for

I wrote the book and went to CreateSpace to put it together. While filling in all the various fields I came to the one labeled Publisher. Years of reviewing books had taught me that any book that listed CreateSpace as its publisher was, odds on, likely to be a piece of hastily and badly written crap. (There have been exceptions. Off the top of my head, out of some hundred or so that I have been assigned I can think of … two.) Therefore, on the spur of the moment I decided to do my client a favour and invent a third party publisher.

Since moving to Ireland I had been working steadily on a collected series of essays titled For Freedom: A Human Rights Reader 1948-2015. I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, but you can find it on Amazon and I’d be frankly delighted if you did as it is a very, very good book. The publisher who had agreed to release For Freedom was in financial difficulty, so there were delays involved there which culminated in the manuscript returning to my hands. As such, it was in the back of my head to release it on my own. At a certain point, you just want to be free of the bloody thing. (If you are a writer yourself, you’ll understand. If you’re not a writer, imagine the manuscript as your child trapped in permanent, noisy adolescence leaving you longing for the day when the little arsehole moves out of the house.)

I decided to kill two birds with one stone and so typed in that the sports book was published by Four Freedom Publishing: Ireland – US – Canada. I drew up a logo, slapped it on the back cover, and so it was that Four Freedom was born, or at least achieved fetal status.

Journal Entry Three:
October 25/2015 9:30AM

Slept quite well actually and incredible dreams. A poem even, completely written:

I whispered all my secrets
Into lovers’ ears before
Can they even be called secrets
Or chocolate mints for paramours?
As each one left my pillows
Crumpled wrappers on the floor
She then became a secret
To tell the next one I adored.
I never meant to be this way
Unless of course I did
But that’s the real secret
The one I still keep hid.

Not bad. More importantly, I know what I want Four Freedom to be, what I want it to do. If I’m going to spend this much time staving off death with single sliced white bread sandwiches smeared with scrapings of jam, if I survive, I will make someone’s dreams live.

Yes, I do get a bit vain-glorious at times, but then again so did all my heroes in the writing trade and not just the authors themselves. You think Maxwell Perkins didn’t know he was damn good and knew what was best for his writers? Or Harold Ross when he assembled the Murderer’s Row of brilliance that was the original The New Yorker? Or Richard Seaver, searching obscure little book shops and small printers in Paris over weeks and months, as he described in his posthumous memoir The Tender Hour of Twilight looking for this little-known expat Irishman named Samuel Beckett because – he! – Dick Seaver! – was the one who could bring Beckett to the world’s attention. Do editors and publishers have big egos? Darling, they can’t get big enough.

The Lights Come On, The House is Launched

As you can tell, given that I’m not quite dead, the lights did eventually come back on and all the ideas and notes I made of them over those days and nights of dark and furious journaling have been put into action. There were four key decisions I had made:

1) If Four Free Freedom Publishing was truly to be worthwhile for me to focus the remaining half of my life on, it must make a positive impact on the world. Therefore, all its works in whatever category must touch on the advancement of Human Rights in brave, daring and entertaining forms. Our motto will be taken from a line written by Jacques Derrida:

What cannot be said above all must not be silenced but written.

2) We will publish in four categories: Non-Fiction, Fiction (both short and long), Poetry & Children’s, and Drama or Screenplay
3) There will be 16 titles per calendar year, so that each can achieve proper attention.
4) Marketing will be achieved by setting out an investment opportunity with a 22% annualized return, and also by offering free books to anyone willing to share our releases on social media. The world is Four Freedom Publishing‘s marketing team.

And now …

And now we have a website.
We have an email address: fourfreedompublishing (at) .

Most importantly we have writers and editors and proofreaders. The books we have in the works include two one act plays in one volume, a poetry collection by an exciting new Canadian writer, two children’s books by an author from Northern Ireland, and just in its genesis a book about healing the soul from the traumas of everyday life as that too is a Human Rights issue.

As well, there is one series that I suppose is not actually Human Rights based. We are releasing a series of books with the prefix The Friendly World of … Those are gently humorous, yet content-filled books about various dog breeds. I suspect they will pay for the rest.

As For You?

Come and join us. You’ll find all the details on the Four Freedom Publishing website vis a vis submissions, or marketing, or even investing in us. This is all a glorious adventure and one I will do my damndest to push forward in a quest to make this world just a little bit better than how I found it. So I shall end this with the closing lines of a poem I actually do remember, Tennyson’s Ulysses. I say to you:

Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Be seeing you.

Thank you, Hubert, and I wish you the best of luck with your new publishing venture!

3. Learn something about how the entire publishing and bookselling business works


I’ve said it before, in the Talk I gave at the Calgary Public Library, and I’ll keep repeating myself until writers and authors begin to listen: To successfully publish a book, whether it’s self-published or traditionally published, you all MUST learn something about how the entire publishing and bookselling business works!

You do not need to actually work within that side of the business … although that would help you immensely. But you do need to understand everything that happens to get the book that’s in your head into the hands of a reader. You need to know how traditional publishers make decisions of what they will publish, and why; all the steps necessary that they go through in order to produce a great book; how that great book is then sold to distributors (there are different distributors, depending upon the type of book you’ve written and the market you expect to sell to) and booksellers (both bricks and mortar and online, both indie and chain); how the promotion and marketing and publicity are handled and how effective (or not) it is, and how readers actually find you and that great book you’ve written and are now trying to sell.

All the same above also goes for eBooks. That should go without saying, because when I say “books” I mean both print and eBooks. They are all one and the same, just a different format.

Plus, you need to know and understand how books are sold to libraries. It’s quite different from selling to bookstores. And understand where libraries can fit into your promotion of yourself as an author. (Currently, eBooks and libraries are a contentious issue, because publishers have decided to treat their sale to libraries as though they were the same as print books. Please read this excellent Op/Ed piece in the Haliburton Echo written by Jenn Watt that best explains the problem. eBooks also need to be “distributed” to libraries with Digital Rights Management embedded and that is done for them through an eBook wholesaler. Overdrive lists all my eBooks and is responsible for telling librarians which books are available in their system [although, I’m not really sure how much “telling” is actually going on]. I haven’t sold many eBooks to libraries, but I have always held the belief that library sales are not meant to be revenue generators so much as a means of finding new readers. That can be the subject of another blog post, however.)

So please do yourselves and your books a big favour and LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS before heading out to publish your own book. And, most especially, before complaining about lack of sales of that book or lack of return on the investment you’ve made in writing and publishing (self or traditional) that book. You may actually discover ways that will enable you to step into the process in a more effective way that helps you to find new readers.


Looking for Readers in all the right places …

If you’ve written and published a book—and it doesn’t matter whether you’ve taken the traditional or self-published route—you’ll be anxious to find people who want to read that book . . . because that’s why you wrote it in the first place, right?

I’m not talking here about book sales and making money from what you’ve written, because as I’ve said many times before, most authors will be lucky to make enough from their writing to cover out-of-pocket cash expenses, let alone any kind of a profit at all. I’ve argued long and hard with those who express disappointment at the meagre return they’ve seen, if any, for all their labour, but I am going to repeat again here—money should not be the reason you write or publish. This is why I have also advocated for a “Most Read” list to determine a book’s success, rather than the “Best Selling” lists … which were, quite frankly, a rating system introduced by publishers who were totally interested in selling more “units” or “product” (their terms for books) rather than finding readers who actually appreciated the writing, the story, and the effort it had taken authors to write the books.

The reason I will continue to argue that finding readers for your work should be of the utmost importance is because readers generally tend to be buyers. So, eventually, if you find enough readers who enjoy what you’ve written and who share with other readers what they like reading, you will achieve more sales for what you publish. You just need to have patience—and quit beating everyone over the head about “buying” your book!

The other benefit to finding engaged readers is that they talk to their friends and tell them what they’ve read and enjoyed. Or they give books as gifts to other readers. So, in a sense, you create a “sales force” that begins small like a snowball—and is possibly imperceptible to you at first—that then builds momentum and grows into an avalanche before you know it . . . and with a lot less angst and badgering on your part than the “buy my book!” route takes. Trust me. This may take time, but it does work.

And where do you find these readers, you ask? First of all, you write a great book. Simple, huh?

I’m serious here … you write the very best book that you can, seek professional help in polishing the manuscript, in publishing the book, and become secure in the fact that you have produced the very best book that you can.

Read books by other authors (not only in the genre in which you write), promote the authors of the best of those books, help them find readers by becoming a reader yourself who enjoys telling their friends about great books. You can even go so far as I have done and write a blog about books—Reading Recommendations—and promote lots of authors even further. Build up a readership for your blog, for your Facebook status updates, for other social media sites. Become someone other readers regularly consult and listen to for their own reading recommendations.

Join like-minded reading sites (note, I said “reading” and not “writing” sites here) and talk about books in your own genre with other readers.

In the meantime, you’re writing and preparing your own book for publication, but you’re also working towards building up a sizable group of reading friends who may very well wish to read what you have written. So, when your book is released, there are people curious enough to take a chance and read it. But, more importantly, you’ve developed a fan base that, if it isn’t disappointed in your book, will become your cheerleaders who then tell their friends, thereby increasing the size of your fan base.

You may choose to offer advance reading copies to a select group of readers, but you should never make these gifts dependent upon receiving a review on Amazon. That’s my feeling about this whole “read for review” thing. If a reader enjoys what you’ve written, most will pass that information on to their friends, either by writing an online review or telling their own friends about it. You should never, ever, ever cajole reviews out of your readers, or make them feel as though they’re under some obligation to review your book favourably, once they’ve read it. You must understand that some readers feel uncomfortable about writing a review—whether they feel incompetent in being able to express their thoughts about the book, or they just don’t wish to have an online presence. Or … they really didn’t enjoy your book at all, but would rather not have you know that fact.

Do encourage those readers who are Internet-shy to write to you privately, whether they enjoyed the book or especially if they had issues with it. Whenever I’ve received glowing comments from readers by email, I’ve asked if I may reprint what they’ve had to say, either on my blog or even in promotion copy, always anonymously though, so that other potential readers have an opportunity to read their thoughts. And if what the reader tells me is critical, I discuss their points with them and learn from what they have not enjoyed in my books. I never argue with them, I never dismiss them as being wrong in their reading. Every reader reads in a different way. If they don’t get what we’ve written then it’s usually because we, the authors, have not been clear enough in our writing. We can always learn something about how to improve our writing, no matter whether the reader liked what they read or didn’t “get” us.

So, I’ve suggested how to find your initial core group of readers, and now you’re probably wondering how you continue to find new readers on top of that group, to continue the momentum. Here’s a handy-dandy list for you:

1. Continue to promote other authors. Yes, that’s right. Not only will you be doing those other authors a favour, but you’ll also attract their readers to read … your book.

2. Ask those other authors who you have promoted to promote you back, by interviewing you on their blogs, reading and reviewing your book, by attracting readers outside of your own geographical and social area. And since you’ve been involved in reading groups online all this time, you’ll have developed a group of friends who may also blog about books and invite you to be interviewed or promoted.

3. Approach librarians. Tell them who you are, show them your book (or give them the online links), offer to supply them with a free print copy for their collection or tell them how they may purchase a copy, if it’s being distributed by a library wholesaler. DO NOT—I repeat—DO NOT figure that making your book available to libraries will lead to direct sales of your book. What libraries can offer you is readers, and more exposure for your writing. Once you have a rapport with the library, see if they are amenable to having you organize a public reading or, better yet, a group reading for other authors in your area. (The reason I suggest making it a group reading is that each of you will attract your own audience and more readers who attend to hear one author will be attracted to the work of the others, as well. Bigger audience = more readers for everyone!) What you have to understand about libraries is that the only numbers that matter to them are the number of patrons who borrow books and the number of participants attracted by their programming. They want to make their patrons—the readers!—happy by offering a great collection and interesting programming. If you offer to make their job easier, as I’ve suggested, they will deliver the readers to you.

4. Do you belong to service groups? Or do you have friends who belong to them? Groups like this are always looking for speakers. Work up a talk you can give to any size group, whether the topic is your book, or a subject that arises out of having written that book, and offer to deliver that talk to their membership. Have your book available to purchase at the event. If your talk is good enough, inspirational enough, your books will sell. But you will also have added to your fan base, so be sure everyone receives your business card with links listed to your webpage, blog, etc. You never know who will follow up and contact you after the event. Or invite you to speak elsewhere …

5. If you are not comfortable speaking in public, that’s okay, because you’re a writer—so you can write copy for online magazines, print magazines, community newspapers, organizational newsletters, association and university newsletters and magazines. The sky is the limit, really. Just be sure that whatever you write offers value to the readers, and that information about you and your book, and an online link, is included in the by-line.

6. Make a point of purchasing books by other authors. This act in itself may not directly find you readers, but eventually word will get out that you are supporting your fellow authors, monetarily as well as by promoting them on your blog or reviewing their books. One author I know, who is both self-and-traditionally published, has publicly made of point of purchasing a self-published eBook once a month. He’s “giving back” to the community by doing so, but what he earns from me and other authors is a great deal of respect for essentially “putting his money where his mouth is” and actually buying books. How can we ever expect others to buy our books when we don’t purchase books ourselves?

7. Don’t be miserly! When you do find readers who have enjoyed your book, tell them about other, similar books or authors writing in the same genre. You will never lose those readers, but you will gain their trust and even friendship in some cases, if you consistently recommend books like yours that they may also enjoy. After all, writing and publishing should never be considered a competition. Nor should finding new readers be competitive. Again, I say you will never lose those readers who have read and enjoyed your book. You can only increase their numbers. Unless … you never write again.

8. Which brings us to the final point … You must continue to write! Don’t rest on your laurels, becoming a one-hit wonder, after all the hard work you’ve put into building your readership. Those readers will now be clamouring for more from you! So give them what they want and keep writing! (I’m trying to follow my own advice here and am continuing to work on preparing my second novel for publication.)

Trust me … if you follow my advice above, and concentrate on finding new readers for your work, the sales will come for your books, eventually, and the entire process will become less nail-biting and a whole lot more fun as you develop a career-long fan base that just can’t wait to read your next book.

That, to me, is far more rewarding, and a good indication that I am becoming successful as an author.

*NB – ALL my suggestions above should cost you next-to-no money at all to implement. So other than investing time and initiative, any sales you do make as a result, after you’ve covered your earlier expenses, will be pure profit. And even if you are traditionally published, these are all ideas you can utilize above-and-beyond whatever your publisher offers to do for you.

You’re welcome.

After writing this, I discovered another blogger had written similarly on the topic in Five golden principles of audience engagement.


Let’s get one thing straight!

I can’t believe that, after all this time since eBooks first hit the market, I would need to write a rant like this, so please bear with me …

On June 1, 2014, I published this blog post, No more “vs.” – Okay?, because I was weary of all the adversity that has proliferated in this writing and book business over the decades I’ve been part of it. I don’t know that my post made the slightest bit of difference, but getting all that off my chest at least made me feel a bit better.

There is one “vs.” though that still seems to be prevalent out there. And I see this being said often enough to make me want to reach into cyberspace and shake those who continue to do this, telling them to “Stop Right There!”

Stop referring to Print books as “REAL” books! Just stop it right now!!

All the stories, essays, words-we-string-together and publish for others to read are BOOKS. They are all REAL BOOKS, in fact, because a “Book” is what we write.

Print and eBook are the “formats” in which we choose to publish our BOOKS. This formatting can also include audio, iBook, and whatever else happens to be out there at the moment.

ALL of these formats are REAL BOOKS! Get it?

I am so tired of the only-print faction of writers/readers who constantly hold up their personal choice of format, calling them REAL, as though this were some kind of superior method of reading the material we, as writers and publishers, produce.

As a writer and a publisher, I have always believed it is our duty to provide our BOOKS in whichever format our readers wish to read them. (Obviously, within our own budget constraints and our ability to deliver these formats to the readers.)

So, please, let’s completely drop the REAL description when touting the benefits of one format over another, shall we? After all, if you do describe print books as “real” you’re only proving to me, at least, that you don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about.


I hope I’ve cleared up any misconceptions, for once and for all.

Thank you.

Goodreads Giveaway – 5 copies of Island in the Clouds!!

To help celebrate my birthday on June 21st, I’m running another Goodreads Giveaway of print copies of my novel, Island in the Clouds! 5 lucky entrants living in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia will each win a signed copy. You must be a member of Goodreads to participate, and that’s free, so why not join today? You’ll receive lots of great reading recommendations and be able to enter many more giveaways than just mine.

Please tell your friends and encourage them to enter as well!!

If you have already read Island in the Clouds, but would still like to help me celebrate my birthday, please leave a comment on this post wishing me a Happy Birthday, and I will contact you individually to send each of you a special gift! Think of this as me providing each of my Birthday Party Guests with a loot bag, just for attending!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Island in the Clouds by Susan M. Toy

Island in the Clouds

by Susan M. Toy

Giveaway ends June 21, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Guest Post: Multi-touch iBooks and ‘The Sword of Air’ by R.J. Madigan

I was so intrigued by R.J. Madigan’s experimentation with new innovations in iBook formatting that I requested a Guest Post about the subject for my own blog as I believe this will be of interest to many of my readers, as well.

The Sword of Air – Punk publishing at it’s best, pushing the medium
to create something new

unnamed 1

Visibility is the indie author’s enemy and with new titles being published every day it is getting harder and harder to stand out in such a crowded market place. This is why I decided to publish my first Young Adult Fantasy novel The Sword of Air as an iBook. With world-building creative options like music HD video, 3D modelling and photography to colour my story I was able to create a book unlike anything else on the market.

View the book trailer here.

Sales of printed books are falling every year and the sales of eBooks are rising. I believe we are on the edge of a paradigm of change in the way people consume their stories. I think this change is even more evident in children and young people today. Brought up with broadband wireless and touchscreen technology they expect everything to be linked to the greater hive mind that is the internet and something that isn’t interactive is almost bizarre to them.

There is a lot of ignorance surrounding iBooks with some people viewing them as a form of media that discourages readers to use their imagination. This is an assumption I’d challenge as an iBook is very similar to the interactive whiteboards teachers now use in the classroom instead of the old style blackboard and chalk. iBooks are a modern form of books like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. But instead of the illustrations being one dimensional they move and are accompanied by sound. If anything iBooks encourage readers to be even more imaginative. The Sword of Air, is an epic fantasy story with a large cast of characters and multiple location changes. It’s much easier to follow this story with the interactive character map I’ve created that appears at the end of each chapter.

1-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.36.32 In Isaac Asimov’s short story Robbie, and Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, both writers envisaged a world where books were more than just print. They came alive and talked to you, reacted and interacted with you. That world is now with the iPad, bringing science fiction into reality. I wanted to use this technology for my own storytelling.

Apple has given everyone the iBooks author software for free because they have a very forward-thinking strategy towards their users. This software enabled me to take my story and illustrate it in a way that isn’t possible in normal printed books. Music, HD video, 3D modelling and photography gives my readers a much more visceral experience rather than just being told about events that unfold in the course of the story. iBooks provide a sensory experience encouraging the reader’s imagination to work even harder.

4-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 17.04.19

Interestingly in the 2011 London riots one of the only shops not to be looted was Waterstones, which says a lot about how young people now value books. Surely if this new technology best described as “eBooks meets movies” gets more young people interested in reading again then that must be a good thing? Don’t get me wrong I love printed books as much as you do and own many beautiful editions but why should books just be pages of printed text and not more interactive? The technological tide is rising and taking all of us with it.

Of course there are barriers with any new technology. Producing an iBook unlike anything else on the market hasn’t been an easy journey. Firstly the technology is so new and cutting edge that it is only currently available for iPad or Mac. If you don’t own either of these devices then you can’t read The Sword of Air. As a writer this has been incredibly frustrating for me me because I know readers have been disappointed because they are unable to access my book. It has also caused problems in the marketing stage of the publishing process. I have lost out on reviews because people willing to do so did not own an iPad or Mac.

Secondly despite the book being unlike anything else on the market it can be hard to make it visible because I can’t publish on Amazon or similar platforms. I have to use the iBooks store.

5-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.25.18 However I think one of the big barriers for authors considering publishing their work as an iBook is the steep learning curve involved in the use of the iBooks Author software. This technology is not orientated toward casual consumer users like Word. It requires concerted effort to master. I teamed up with a computer whizz known as ‘The Producer,’ to get the book I wanted out of iBooks Author. This is why despite the interest in iBooks, authors are not yet taking advantage of all this software can offer for their storytelling.

Another challenge has been trying to explain to readers exactly what an iBook is. The worst assumption I’ve read with regards to iBooks so far is ‘Netflix on a tablet.’ If you download the free sample of The Sword of Air, from the iBooks store, you’ll see this assumption couldn’t be more wrong.

Producing an iBook requires you to source media, photos, music, video and even 3D models. My partner in making the iBook, ‘The Producer,’ is a great photographer and was able to contribute some stunning photography as part of his involvement. The music, the video etc., has to be licensed therefore you have to be prepared to pay upfront costs. This is a challenge but realistically these days, creating a bestselling book without investing money up front is very unlikely.

At its heart though a story is all about the writing. The technology only supports it. The Sword of Air, is an epic fantasy story set in an altered reality of medieval Ireland. Sixteen-year-old Niamh Kelly’s village is burnt to the ground by the Raven Queen’s Fomor army and her adoptive grandmother is brutally murdered right in front of her. She is forced to flee into the forest of the Nadur with only an old storyteller, her best friend Rauri and his wolfhound Bran for protection. Hunted by the Raven Queen, the brutal ruler of Ireland, and her armies, Niamh desperately searches for the forgotten Fae people to help her. She must find allies and the power within herself if she is to survive against the dark powers of the Raven Queen.


Sneak preview inside The Sword of Air

Characters such as the beautiful but merciless Raven Queen, and unforgiving King of the dwarves- Abcan, spring from the page with hundreds of beautiful photographs, that go full screen at the tap of a finger. Sound effects put you inside the action instead of your just being told about it. The cinematic soundtrack adds another layer, telling the story and giving depth to the characters as the book progresses. Short movies built into the story put you inside the characters’ heads, let you see what they see and feel their emotions.

End movie for chapter 1

iBooks Author allowed me to build the character map for The Sword of Air. An interactive guide for the reader. As they come into the story each character and location is described at the end of each chapter. A fantastic feature for a high fantasy book with a large cast and multiple location changes.

If you have the patience and determination to master iBooks Author then there is so much you can do with the software to make your book stand out from the crowd and literally wow readers.

2-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.54.58 I hope that you will love The Sword of Air, You may download the first three chapters free from the iBooks store to experience the exciting multi-touch features for yourself.

You can read Chapter 1 on Wattpad now and I’ll be releasing more soon. The Sword of Air, is new and exciting and I promise you won’t be able to put it down. Already gaining five-star reviews on Goodreads it’s punk publishing at its best. Pushing the boundaries of the medium to create something new and radical.

There are many challenges in putting together an iBook. But the total creative freedom is empowering and where would the fun or challenge be in just reproducing what is already out there. Despite all the challenges it has been one hell of a journey!

Once you’ve read The Sword of Air, I’d love to hear what you think of the story, the technology and how you think this storytelling medium will develop in the future.

3-Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 16.24.36 You can follow the progress of
The Sword of Air
on my blog
or Facebook
or Pinterest

Read Chapter 1 on Wattpad

Download The Sword of Air,
at Apple iTunes

Guest Post: San Miguel Writers’ Conference by Gordon Cope – Part Three

This is the third of a 3-part series written by Gordon Cope who has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations. Gordon has offered to give us an “insider’s look” into the writing conference held annually in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.


The city of San Miguel de Allende has experienced tremendous wealth, virtual abandonment and a phenomenal rebirth. Established as a mission in the 16th century, it grew prosperous as the midway point between silver mines to the north and Mexico City to the south. It reached its heyday in the 18th century, when merchants and hacienda owners built impressive mansions and commercial buildings in the Baroque and Neoclassical styles.

But the Mexican War of Independence that broke out against colonial rule in the early 1800s was the beginning of a century of decline. Although the city itself was one of the first municipalities to throw off Spanish rule, it was not devastated by fighting. Instead, protracted hostilities saw the closure of silver mines in the state of Guanajuato and the decline of agricultural trade. Citizens abandoned their sumptuous homes to the elements, and SMA became a virtual ghost town.

Several factors contributed to its recovery. In the early 20th century, the Mexican government established regulations to help the municipality retain its colonial appearance. Expats also began to discover the town. Attracted by its charm and gentle winter climate, artists and writers flocked to its inexpensive environs. Stirling Dickinson, an American, established the Instituto Allende, an art and cultural school that was attended by US veterans studying under the GI Bill. Enrollment in the Instituto, and the Escuela de Bellas Artes encouraged the establishment of hotels, restaurants and venues that complemented the lively cultural environment.

Street musicians

Street musicians

Today, the UNESCO World Heritage City is an international crossroad for culture, art and social engagement. It was recently named the Number One City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler’s 26th Annual Reader’s Choice Awards, beating out Budapest and Florence.

How did it warrant such a prestigious accolade? Although it has grown tremendously over the last decade, the city retains the charm and intimacy of a Mexican village. Farmers still travel to the town on firewood-laden burros, bands play music in the main jardin, and indigenous people journey to the Saturday market to sell their wares. The people of SMA exhibit warmth and hospitality to strangers. Although the city has over 10% expat population, it is still very much a Mexican town, retaining its rich traditions and leisurely pace of life.



On any given day of the week, you can attend concerts of traditional Mexican music, European baroque ensembles and American Jazz. Broadway plays compete with street religious festivals for your attention, and fireworks light up the night on a regular basis. Or, one can simply sit in the main jardin and gaze upon the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, the 19th century parish church with a facade that evokes memories of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona.

One of my favourite pastimes in SMA is sampling the cuisine. There are over 200 restaurants, and each one is unique. Hecho in Mexico, housed in an ancient stone building, serves traditional Mexican fare, as well as North American platters and rich, sumptuous salads. Hanson’s restaurant in the Guadalupe neighbourhood cooks some of the finest prime rib to be had anywhere, and Ma Mansion, open only on Sunday afternoons, serves up a three-hour, multi-course meal in a stunning mansion located on the hill above the centre of town.

During the SMA writer’s conference, there are several extracurricular events organized, including a Fiesta night in the Instituto Allende that features live music, dancing and fireworks. There are also excursions to some of the sites around the city, including colonial homes and the best bars. But the city abounds with so many sensory stimuli that simply walking the cobbled streets and gazing into art galleries, artisan shops and lively cantinas is a treat in itself. Most of the homes and hotels have some form of terrace where you can sit out in the evening, gazing at the million stars that grace the clear skies, sipping on a glass of red wine, and waxing philosophical with your friends.

SMA truly is a place of magic, and a city that I look forward to going back to year after year.

For more information about the conference, visit their main website.

Part One
Part Two