Nov 202014

image3Going into the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair as a new Canadian self-published author, I had an idea of what to expect, but was it realistic since this was my first time promoting my books? I was excited at the prospect of promoting my novels at an event that was a targeted audience of book lovers. How do you determine how many books to bring with you to an event like this? I brought 125 copies of my first novel, Saving Grace, and 75 copies of the second novel in the Taylor Sinclair Series, Unfinished Business, and I was worried I wouldn’t have enough. What I learned was that it wasn’t about book sales. Sales for unknown indie-authors like myself were pretty much non-existent at the Book Fair. I failed to take into account that we would be competing for sales with over 400 authors, many of them best-sellers and a few of them legends.

What the inaugural event of Toronto’s Book Fair was about for authors like myself was networking, making contacts with professionals in the literary world, and getting our name out there. These things were invaluable and made the event a success despite the financial loss. I invested a lot in the creation of promotional materials such as banners, business cards, and a Kindle Fire HD draw to entice people to join my email list. Other costs included the purchase of the booth itself, travel and hotel expenses, and the printing of 200 novels (which I will still be able to sell). So, all in all, with only ten books sold at the event, it was a financial loss. But that doesn’t take into account future online sales that may result from handing out my business cards, or from people checking out my website from the links on the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair website and print materials, or from the exposure on social media sites.  It may be too early to determine just how much of an impact the Book Fair will have in regards to book sales, but I definitely believe it has been a very worthwhile investment.

Networking with other authors, both traditionally published and self-published, publicity firms, publishing companies, printers, and marketing specialists provided a valuable learning experience as well as the opportunity to share social media exposure. These things are where the value in taking part in such events come. I also had the opportunity to spend time with some amazing talent and incredible people who I hope to keep as friends for a long time to come.image2

What I have learned that I will take into next years event is that I need to schedule hours where I will be available for signings and either share a booth with other authors or hire someone to man my booth for me. That would free me up to take full advantage of what the Toronto Book Fair has to offer in terms of speakers offering advice for writers and self-published authors. It would enable me to do more networking and visiting the other booths and exhibitors that I missed out on by being tied to my booth. Next year I won’t be concerned about book sales, although I hope that the sales will be better than this year. I will be more concerned with the networking opportunities and the valuable relationships that can be built during an event like this.

If I had advice to give to help make next year’s Book Fair even better it would be to give more attention to the Hub exhibitors. I was scheduled to speak on the Soapbox Stage on the Saturday from 12:20 to 12:40pm. I had thought that there would be Book Fair staff or volunteers there to help out and to introduce the speakers, but this didn’t happen. I just put one of my banners on the stage and went about my reading with no support from staff anywhere in sight. It felt a little bit like the Hub area was ignored. I know that there has been talk of putting the Hub in a more central location next year so that it isn’t ignored, so writing that piece of advice is probably a moot point. That is another of the impressive things about the organizers of the event: they were already looking at what they could improve for next year. Very impressive!

image5I am very grateful to the Inspire organizing staff, particularly Maddy Curry and Jesse Bernstein, who were extremely helpful both before and during the Book Fair. Also, whoever runs the social media sites for Inspire_TIBF, thank you for retweeting my tweets! It is very much appreciated.


See you at next year’s Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair!




Sep 282014

In early 2011, I had been unemployed for over a year after being laid off from General Motors where I had worked for thirteen years in the Security and Fire department, ten of those years in supervisory and management roles. I couldn’t get another job in my field because I was unable to do the running portion of the fitness tests thanks to three surgeries on my lower back and an L3 – S1 spinal fusion. I had been doing a lot of reading during that period and it inspired me to try my hand at writing. I began working on my first novel, Saving Grace. A year and a half later, I was still unemployed and had been living on an income of $328 per month. If not for my family, I literally would have been homeless.

One of my three sisters was working at a substance abuse treatment centre in central Ontario  and she got me an interview for a night security position. I got the job, thankfully, and moved from Oshawa up to Gravenhurst and then to Bala.


 Lake Muskoka, Bala, ON

Lake Muskoka Sunrise, Bala, ON


Bala, ON

You can see from the pictures what a beautiful place Bala is and what a lovely place to write. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching the sun rise over Lake Muskoka or watching the leaves change colour in the fall.

My second novel, Unfinished Business, was nearly complete when I moved north. I began sending out query letters to literary agents and found it quite frustrating. If they responded at all, it was usually to say that you weren’t a ‘fit’ with their agency. I began looking into self-publishing and was surprised to find that you could self-publish eBooks to Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) free of charge. Royalties depended on pricing, but I would earn 70% royalty fees on the sale of my eBook. I began to ask myself why anyone would bother with the hassle of finding a publisher or literary agent when self-publishing was not only easy, it was free … and you made a much higher percentage on royalties by cutting out the middle man! I also found the same easy self-publishing site for Kobo (Chapters-Indigo’s eReader) called Kobo Writing Life and they offered the same 70% royalty fees.

You may think that it was as easy as uploading my eBook, but if you’ve ever published a book you know that it is scary as all get out to put your work out there for others to critique. It came down to listening to everyone who had read the book already. I was getting great feedback from people, saying that they couldn’t put the book down. I bit the bullet and published Saving Grace to Kobobooks in November of 2013 and then to Amazon. Then I discovered Createspace, an Amazon subsidiary that allows you to publish print on demand books to Amazon … and it’s free.

The next hurdle was the all important marketing and publicity. It is free to publish, but you really need to spend money on marketing to get your book noticed. My problem … I didn’t have the kind of money you need for a good marketing campaign.

Social media marketing works to an extent, but it only reaches so far until you build up a following. I submitted Saving Grace to the Online Book Club for review and received 3 out of 4 stars. Not a bad start considering it was my first novel and I did everything myself, including the cover, with the exception of my sister, Abbie, helping me out with the editing (Bless her). I also signed up as a Goodreads Author and have done some promotions to elicit reviews on Amazon.

Before I published Unfinished Business in June of this year, I discovered that I could publish to Smashwords and they would take care of listing the book on various online book stores such as Kobobooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Apple iBooks. I have received great feedback from everyone who has read it so far. The only bad review I have received was from an Online Book Club reviewer who hadn’t read the first book in the series. I have re-submitted Unfinished Business to the Online Book Club for review, but this time I included the first book and I’ve learned from my mistake. I am anxiously awaiting their review and will post it on my website when it comes out.

Then along comes the INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair (TIBF) scheduled for November 14 – 16, 2014 at the Toronto Convention Centre. This is Toronto’s first annual book fair and it “…will showcase the best in emerging and established writing from across Canada and beyond our national borders.” Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Day, and Kathy Reichs are among the hundreds of authors that will be attending. It proves to be an epic event and I am excited to not only be in attendance as a published author, but to be speaking on the Hub Soapbox Stage. This could be the turning point for the Taylor Sinclair Series (my saving grace).

In the meantime, I’m up here in Bala and have transitioned from night security to clinical associate after obtaining my diploma for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist. The leaves are changing quickly and I’m busy working on book 3. Life is good!




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