Tag Archives: Social Media Platforms


AwardsTo most of my fellow bloggers, these trophies are small bananas, but to me these are two milestones achieved in one month. For the first part of this year I barely posted. I could list a million excuses as to why I didn’t; however none would convince anyone with good work ethics and multitasking skills. I promise to do better.

Thanks for all the support. It means a lot to me every time someone visits, comments or likes my posts.


100-0059_IMG (1)I hunch over the computer writing and rewriting. I’ve completed three novels and have a start on a fourth. I’ve sent out queries for the first three. The pile of rejection letters grows. I shred them all and decide on yet another conference. My books deserve a reading audience.

At the Willamette Writers’ Conference we hear much rumbling about self-publishing. We’re told that the Big Six are (at that time) publishing only 55% of books available to readers. Advances are miniscule or non-existent. Marketing? Forget it. It’s do it yourself. And, says one speaker, “I pitched my author’s novel to 35 publishers before we got a sale. That was followed by a year of rewrites.” I groan. “His book is out next week. It’s been a two year process.” Two years!? “Publish yourself,” she says. “It’ll take you a couple of months.”

We agonized during the drive home. Self-publish? Oh, but the stigma. Our pitches were successful, so should we wait to hear from those agents and then decide? What to do? What to do?

Response from agent number one—rejection.  But, hey she’s actually given some feedback. Two whole paragraphs. This could be good. Nope! Her comments, which are cut and paste judging by the font variations, indicate a rewrite is needed. My heart might be found somewhere under my desk chair, or maybe in the sub-basement of my building.

I open the next email which is from my writing buddy. She’s received a rejection from the same agent. Two different genres and two very different writing styles. Both professionally copy-edited. Here’s where the cake is iced. The rejections are identical except for our names.

Stigma be damned. Self-publishing here we come.

I publish my four books using Kindle Direct, Smashwords, and Createspace, all three of which are great to work with. Now, on to the selling.

I’ve chosen my titles carefully, had the book covers professionally designed, blogged, and built a website. I’m using social media in preparation for the big launch and sales campaign.

What else? Oh yes, the blurb. This just may be the hardest part of all.

In the years that I’ve been writing and promoting my books, I’ve come to the conclusion that readers aren’t particularly interested in author interviews, or author bios, or book excerpts—at least not initially. I think readers, attracted by a cover or title want a quick book description that will entice them to download the sample.

So, if my theory is right, what constitutes a great book description? The blurbs below come from emails I’ve received –some from well-known publishing houses. I’ve made no changes to the descriptions other than deleting author names, book titles, and character names to preserve anonymity.

  1. “In this #1 New York Times bestselling e-book, Z, an experienced foster carer, is pressured into taking Y as a new placement. Y’s challenging behavior has seen off five carers in four months but X decides to take her on to protect her from being placed in an institution.”
  2. “The sensational New York Times bestseller from X, is a gift for readers, an enchanting, luminous novel about the accidents, both big and small, that affect our choice of friend, lover, and spouse.”
  3. “X has discovered the perfect gift for her daughter’s twenty-fifty birthday: an ideal husband. Y, however, is fed up with her mother’s endless matchmaking and grading of available Iranian American bachelors.”
  4. “Z is a fast-paced mystery with a likable protagonist and an intricately woven narrative brimming with bizarre yet believable twists. The first in a series, the book expertly lays the groundwork for X, amateur sleuth, and her love interest, FBI Agent Y. X becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of a summer intern at the limestone mine X manages near Z, Colorado (a breathtaking setting that unwittingly becomes an accessory to crime).”
  5. “This anthology of punchy short stories will grab your heart and your wallet and give them a good shake. The stories are set in the turbulent times of the post Global Financial Crisis world. Intriguing and at times twisted, these tales delve behind the facades of modern life to uncover the real struggles, hopes and dreams of ordinary people. Hopeful, insightful and at times humorous, Y is an engaging and thought-provoking work for our times.”
  6. “In May 2000, X is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, X begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books.”
  7. “Our world is being judged and we remain unaware. In a world filled with people, X is uniquely alone. The tiny glowing sparks filling her mind, representing the people around her, confirm it. Clueless regarding the reason behind her sight and her place in the world, X struggles to find an explanation. A chance encounter leads her closer to answers she’s struggled to find, and into a hidden society where fur is optional.”
  8. “It’s a mother’s worst nightmare: When X’s daughter suffers an unspeakable trauma, she whisks her away to a safe house where they begin the difficult journey to recovery. With over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon, a “thought-provoking and insightfully entertaining” tale.”
  9. “A USA Today bestselling author weaves a fun holiday romance with a “clever premise” (Booklist). When X finds herself catapulted to a future Christmas morning, will she be able reunite with her beloved husband and expected child?”
  10. “This deeply poignant bestseller charts the journey of two wildly different families united by their love for one young girl. As adoptee X searches for her place in the world, her relatives encounter love and loss across two continents. Written with “compassion and uncanny perception.”

If none of these are particularly enticing to the reader, it’s a clear sign that the author needs to improve on the blurb. How?

  • Think of your blurb as an advertisement.
  • Keep your sentences short and compact.
  • Focus on the conflict in your book.
  • Talk about two or three characters only.
  • Don’t include details that are better left in the novel.
  • Ask a question that the reader wants an answer to.

Attracted by the blurb, the reader downloads a sample. The final decision is made after reading the first few chapters. Either the reader is irrevocably hooked and buys the book immediately or they know it’s a no go and deletes the sample. For some books, the reader may still be undecided after the sample. That’s when they likely go to the reviews, if they haven’t already read them, to help them decide.

Marketing is a tough road, but I persist. I publish a book of snippets from my life. I post blogs and I work on a new novel—a departure from the sci-fi romance that has kept me enthralled for years.  After all, writing is what it’s all about.


Website: www.emandyves.com

Blog: http://emandyves.wordpress.com


Stacey Alfonso-Mills Profile Picture 2014The question of whether to self-publish or not is a constant one – even for me.  My decision to write and self-publish my first children’s illustrated storybook in 2009, was driven by the lack of traditional publishing options in Trinidad & Tobago (and the wider Caribbean) at the time, and also because I was keenly curious of the entire process.  For me, it appeared to be a unique opportunity to understand, first-hand, all the elements required to realize my dream of producing a book that someone else would enjoy.

Between 2009 and 2014, I wrote and self-published three children’s illustrated storybooks: The Boys of Sinclair Hill (Fun in the Backyard) 2009, The Boys of Sinclair Hill (The Princess, The Treasure and The Blue Dragon) 2011 and Manatee has a Question 2014.  I also published my first colouring book – Manatee has a Question Colouring Book.  Throughout this journey, I can safely say that each self-publishing process has taught me something new and valuable, both professionally and personally.

As a working mother of three, just finding time to be creative and actually write is a challenge and the decision to self-publish added new levels that I simply had to learn every step of the way.  In addition to being the writer, as a self-publisher the author immediately becomes responsible for:

  • Sourcing and working with an illustrator or graphic artist,
  • Sourcing and working with a graphic designer (to prepare your book in print ready format),
  • Preparing and administering working agreements,
  • Registering your International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and obtaining the Bar Code for your book,
  • Proofing and editing your work or sourcing a professional proof-reader and/or editor,
  • Production (sourcing and working with a printer whether locally or internationally).
  • Financing (sourcing the initial capital to cover registration, illustration, graphic layout, printing and/or shipping costs),
  • Marketing and Public Relations
  • Sales and Distribution

Because of my business and communications background, some of these roles were easier for me than others.  For instance, I was fortunate to find and work with two very talented illustrators and graphic designers over the course of my three books.  Equally, the Public Relations element and the preparation and administration of agreements were comfortable areas for me during the self-publishing process.  However, my greatest challenge is that I continue to bear the financial burden of producing and publishing my books.

Like many other self-publishers, I have encountered difficult situations during the self-publishing process.  For instance, in 2009, my experience with the first local printer I worked with ended badly with many poorly printed books (which I refused to accept) and very high costs.  From this experience, I learned that I was determined to maintain as a high a standard as possible in what I produced.  Then during the publishing of my third book, between 2013/2014, I encountered my very first Internet-fraud incident while working with a printing agent in China (despite having done business with this agent successfully on several other occasions).   This particular incident was a hard lesson to learn, but I realized that I had taken for granted, the accessibility and ease of forming international business relationships and conducting international business transactions via the Internet.  So while I was forging ahead with my printing agent across the globe in China to print my newest book, hackers had perfected their craft to the point where both my agent and I were caught off-guard.  While I was unsure how to proceed at that point, I relied on my support system to guide me through to the next step, which led me to a Print on Demand company in the United States and we were able to bring Manatee has a Question to life.

Self-publishing will always have its ‘amazing’ moments as well as its ‘help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ moments.  Of course certain challenges depend on which part of the world you are writing from.  A major challenge for self-publishers in Trinidad and Tobago is the absence of financial or any other meaningful type of support for local authors.  The cost to self-publish is directly related to the quality of product you produce and publish.  The better the product, the more expensive it becomes.  The opportunities now available for local authors to self-publish, market and sell their products via social media, have certainly encouraged more local authors to contribute to the literary landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean region and the rest of the world.  This seems like a perfect opportunity for the public and private sectors in Trinidad and Tobago to partner with local authors with a goal to preserving history and culture while fostering cultural identity.  Other challenges include the lack of support from mainstream bookstores to promote and supply local literature in all stores across the country.

The good news for authors, who may be considering the self-publishing route, is that the awareness of local literature is continually growing.  For instance, the Librarian for the children’s section of our National Library (NALIS) is a keen supporter of local literature and encourages book launches and visits from local authors to create a cultural awareness among the children visiting the library.  Equally there continues to be a great deal of interest and support for local literature from non-main stream book stores, cultural shops, school teachers, parents, NGOs (or anyone working with children and literacy) and general citizens who simply desire and appreciate local literature (particularly children’s literature).  There is also a high demand for local literature from nationals residing outside of Trinidad and Tobago as well as expatriates residing in Trinidad and Tobago.

For me, the decision to self-publish created an opportunity to expand my knowledge of marketing through social media, which is crucial for building a networking base and developing a writer’s platform.  I also discovered that having author control from self-publishing allows me to collaborate with schools and/or NGOs on literature programmes and perform book readings at schools.  Book readings allow me to interact freely with my direct customers – the children.  If a children’s author wants a truly honest book review, then perform a book reading – it is a humbling, yet exhilarating experience.

After self-publishing three books, I realize that I still love to write.  But now, I also enjoy creating books that both entertain and educate children.  I especially enjoy producing books that Caribbean children, particularly children from Trinidad and Tobago, can comfortably relate to.  I have a great appreciation for the process and art of creating literature.  There is no real way to measure the passion and amount of time that an author spends writing as well as self-publishing a book.  The satisfaction truly comes from the joy on the readers’ faces.

The decision to self-publish can be a difficult one for an author to make, but it’s one I would certainly recommend trying.  My advice to any new author considering the self-publishing option is to 1) be realistic about how much work is required, while being aware of your talents and your limitations, 2) find a support network, as each self-publishing process can offer different experiences and 3) just keep writing!

About the Author

Stacey Alfonso-Mills is the self-published author of The Boys of Sinclair Hill-Fun in the Backyard (2009), The Boys of Sinclair Hill-The Princess, The Treasure and The Blue Dragon (2011), Manatee has a Question (2014) as well as a children’s colouring book.

Stacey’s books are written in Standard English format.   Her books feature Caribbean elements through its stories and illustrations and also include subtle learning tips. Young readers enjoy the Caribbean diversity of Stacey’s books.  Stacey writes for the early Primary or Elementary school age group and her books are perfect for reading aloud.

As an author Stacey collaborates with Bridge Foundation, an organization that supports the development of young children through the promotion of literacy programmes that encourage early reading.  Stacey’s books are included in the BGTT sponsored Bridge Foundation’s ‘Read to Rise’ programme, which uses a book rotation strategy to inspire and encourage student reading while innovatively building classroom libraries.  This programme was launched in March 2013 at Mayaro Government Primary School and Guayaguayare R.C. School, both located on the east coast of Trinidad.  Stacey also participated in the launch of the 2013 Bridge Foundation’s Read for the Record Day, which is a global celebration of reading created to bring attention to the importance of early literacy among children.

When Stacey is not writing books or reading her books to students at primary schools across Trinidad, she is a Communications Consultant and the Managing Director of MAALAN Resources Limited, which is a service company in the Trinidad and Tobago energy sector.

Stacey is keen to expand her literary contributions and is currently working on making her books available in electronic format.  Her goal is to find that comfortable balance, for her young audience, where her books can exist for the modern young reader in a variety of electronic formats while preserving the traditional printed format.

Stacey is Trinidad and Tobago born.  She is married with three sons and currently resides with her family in Trinidad and Tobago.

Author’s Contact:

Email: staceyalfonsomillsbooks@gmail.com

Website: www.staceyalfonsomillsbooks.com 

Stacey’s Books are available in Trinidad  & Tobago at:

  • Paper Based, The Normandie Hotel, St. Anns
  • Rainy Days, Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval
  • Horizon’s Framing & Décor Ltd., Mucurapo Road, St. James




Tomorrow I will begin my Shine on Self-Published Authors Series.  If anyone would like to participate there is still time, July 20th is the deadline for submissions.


  • Tuesday 15th Stacey Alfonso-Mills
  • Wednesday 16th Darlene Jones
  • Thursday 17th Anneli Purchase
  • Friday 18th Kasi Senghor



Hello everyone, I was tagged by author Jane Dougherty to participate in the Work In Progress Blog Hop. Here, I will answer seven questions relating to my WIP, which is my first novel Selima and the Merfolk.

To view Jane Dougherty’s WIP click on this link Jane Dougherty’s Blog

SELIMA BOOK COVERQ1: What is the name of your character? Is he/she a fictional or a historical character?
My main character is Selima. She is a fictional character.

Q2: When and where is the story set?
The story is set in the early nineties, in Las Cuevas Bay, Trinidad. Las Cuevas Bay is a small fishing village on the north coast of Trinidad.

 Q3: What should we know about him/her?
Selima is a good girl, trying to do the right thing. However, she is a teenager, and she makes some naive decisions while she tries to follow her heart and be a good daughter at the same time.

 Q4: What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Firstly, Selima unexpectedly goes to live with her estranged father. Then she falls in love with the fiancé of a beautiful mermaid.

 Q5: What is the personal goal of the character?
Selima wants to do what is right. Her relationship with her father is imperative to her, but she is in love.

 Q6: Is there a working title for this novel and can we read more about it?
Yes, Selima and the Merfolk. You can read the synopsis here Selima and the Merfolk Synopsis

 Q7: When can we expect the book to be published?
It will be available on Xlibris.com in about two weeks.

I have tagged author Anneli Purchase to carry on with this hop. Her blog is filled with many interesting posts, accompanied by beautiful photography.

I follow both Jane Dougherty’s and Anneli Purchase’s blogs. There is always something interesting to read.


spotlightThis post is an invitation to self-published authors to be featured in my Shine on Self-Published Authors Series.
All you need is to:
– Have a web link to purchase your book/books.
– Have at least one digital photo of yourself (jpg, png, gif).
– Write your journey to becoming a self-published author and what you have experienced now that you have published. Give advice if you can and note any new projects you are working on. Also, include your contact information.
No less than 1000 words.
*Please have your work properly edited.

Only one feature will be posted per week.
If you would like to be a part of this series, please send the information requested to selimaandthemerfolk@gmail.com by July 20th, 2014.

Follow my blog for further information.