Marketing tips

*STOP PRESS*  The updated second edition of How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book came out in May 2021, as both an eBook and print book. 😊  It is packed full of children’s book marketing tips for both those starting out, and those looking for more advance children’s book marketing strategies, including Amazon advertising, and covers far more than you will find below. Find out more about what’s inside here

Whilst the info below still holds true, I don’t have time to add to it (nor space as there’s so much to say!)

Marketing children’s books is a challenge for authors in the online world because our target market isn’t online. There are, of course, ways to connect with parents, teachers and librarians online to let them know about your book, however the reality is that if you want to establish your brand, you also need to get out there and meet them face to face at signings and school events. Read on to find out more!

Sales figures

I have now sold well over 400,000 print copies of The Secret Lake and all of my other books have sold in their low thousands in print.

Below I share some of my marketing tips — however, please note that the content below was written back in 2017 and is rather out of date. You’ll find much more in-depth and up-to-date information in How to Self-publish and Market a Children’s Book (Second Edition) — or in the standalone ‘How to Market a Children’s Book’ which is aimed at those who know the ropes of self-publishing and are looking only for marketing support. Visit this page to find out more

Creating individual book websites and an author website

When starting out I created separate sites for The Secret Lake, Eeek! The Runaway Alien and The Adventures of Ferdinand Fox. I still have these individual sites and they served their purpose brilliantly in the early days, however  a couple of years ago I brought information about all of my books together under as this makes cross marketing simpler now that I have four books (with another about to launch) and a book app under my belt. All of these websites are hosted on free WordPress blogs.

Whichever route you choose (you may decide to go for both), the benefit is not only that you have a place where your readers can connect with you directly through comments, but also an online ‘calling card’ to show or offer links to when contacting bookshops, schools, journalists, librarians or editors.

My book sites in action…

Anyone can read the first three chapters of The Secret Lake or Eeek! The Runaway Alien for free on those books’ websites. And on Ferdinand Fox’s website there are excerpts and sample images from Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep  – along with a fun puzzle and downloadable colouring sheets.

The quality, look and feel of each site is important and should reflect the book’s ‘brand’. For example, with The Secret Lake website I went to great lengths to try to reflect the magical atmosphere and setting of the story through the background woodland design. I did this all myself – quite easily, just following the WordPress instructions. The site certainly had a positive impact when first talking to book buyers who often placed orders while on the phone.  In contrast, Eeek’s website is bright and whacky – in tune with the fun atmosphere of the book.  Meanwhile, Ferdinand Fox’s website is simple – but reflects the book’s brand again.

The Secret Lake website

The Secret Lake website – on brand

I own the domain names for and and and have a forwarding links set on these to the free WordPress blogs that I host them on. I’m of course able to quote these web addresses in promotional literature and tell people about them in passing (as can you!).

My book websites naturally have links out to Amazon in the UK and USA – and to other online retailers where relevant. They also list which UK stores stock the books.  In addition, I’ve set them up so that children and other readers can leave reviews.

My author site

Since 2013 my books sites have been complemented by my ‘catch-all’ author site  This site, which can also be reached via (my imprint name) is aimed at all of the following:

  • children (my readers) – or parents/carers of my readers
  • schools and librarians
  • trade book buyers
  • (press / bloggers)

You will see that I have taken care to segment the books clearly in the menu headings so that anyone landing on the site can see which titles are relevant for which age-group. And I’ve made it easy for schools and bookshops to pick out pages relevant to them.

There is also a direct sales page for anyone wanting personalised signed copies of my books.

This is another free WordPress blog set up with a forwarding rule from the domain names which I own. I can’t stress how easy these WordPress sites are to set up. Just go to and follow the instructions!

Go to Karen Inglis author website

My author website –

Getting to know children’s booksellers

When I first published The Secret Lake I decided to ‘start local’ and work my way out – so initially called and then visited local independent bookshops, taking in one of my proof copies. They were fantastically useful in advising me on a suggested retail price and these shops stock and restock my books on a consignment basis (meaning I invoice them when they have sold them) – usually face out. Here’s Ferdinand Fox in my local village bookshop!

Ferdinand Fox in The Barnes Bookshop

Ferdinand Fox in The Barnes Bookshop

Here is The Secret Lake in June 2013 at The Notting Hill Bookshop – right by their till in the ‘local authors’ section. (I used to live there, and the story was largely inspired by the communal gardens there.)

The Secret Lake in The Notting Hill Bookshop

The Secret Lake – in The Notting Hill Bookshop

My next step was to telephone Waterstones in Notting Hill. (For non-UK readers this is the main UK bookstore chain.) I chose this branch because, as mentioned above, the story of The Secret Lake is set in the Notting Hill communal gardens. The children’s buyer – who was looking at the website while chatting to me on the phone – immediately ordered four copies (they were on her system thanks to my arrangement with Lightning Source which ensures they are on the Ingram data feed – more on this below). She then suggested I supply a promo board to help with sales – which I duly organised with Prontaprint. All in all this was fantastic news for me – I had assumed she would need to refer me to a central buyer somewhere, but she didn’t.*

Thereafter I contacted more local Waterstones branches on the back of the ‘local author and local setting’ story – the lake in the story is based on a pond in Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park in southwest London. Chatting with the children’s book buyers and showing them my website, and in some cases then going in to meet them to show them the book was definitely was worth the time and trouble. With a few months of its launch The Secret Lake was stocked in 10 branches of Waterstones in west/southwest London – and one in Solihull.

*2016: Book buying at Waterstones is now mostly done centrally, unlike when I first approached them. This means that a local manager won’t normally be able to order in your book right away if you are a new author as they did with me. Rather they will need to recommend you to the central buyer.

However, local managers may still have influence to persuade central office to place an order or accept your book on a direct arrangement if they think you have a quality product. This means that all of the work to establish your brand through a website is just as relevant as it was before the system changed – in fact even more so as the managers will be able to pass on your links.

Distributing via Lightning Source in the UK and offering a wholesale discount of 45% (55% in the USA)

Lightening Source UK website

Lightning Source UK

I  use Lightning Source in the UK (owned by Ingram) because they can quickly fulfil print-on-demand orders placed by UK bookshops. However, since I began my self-publishing journey they have set up a sister company, Ingram Spark, which is more suited to small self-publishers and it’s likely this is the route you will need to take. You can read more about these choices on my page print on demand. (While I could distribute in the UK via CreateSpace, most independent bookshops on seeing the Amazon connection are unlikely to order except where a customer has made a specific request – again, follow the link above to understand more about this.)

The marketing principles information that follows is relevant for both Lightning Source and Ingram Spark, the only difference being that with Lightning Source you can flex your discounts across a wide range from around 30% — 55%, whereas with Ingram Spark you may have a more limited choice I believe.

Bookshops see the book cover and discount/pricing info on their online systems — supplied by Ingram — and then order from the wholesaler who in turn orders from Lightning Source (or Ingram Spark).

Most major bookshops and online stores (and, I believe, most smaller bookshops) are unlikely to order in books offered at a lower discount than 45% in the UK unless they receive a specific customer request. This is because when the books are supplied to them by one of the main wholesalers, such as Gardners they take their cut of the discount.

Speaking to independent booksellers, it seems they are generally looking for a minimum discount from the wholesalers of 30% but ideally 35% — this enables them to make a reasonable profit on the sale — and, importantly, to be able to put the books on offer from time to time.

For this reason I offer a 40% or 45% discount in the UK via Lightning Source and recommend you do the same with Ingram Spark. Whilst Ingram Spark may suggest that 55% is the way to go to increase the chances of getting stocked by bookshops, my own view would on balance be that unless you’re planning an active national marketing campaign there will be no incentive for bookshops to stock your book, so stay with 40%. That way if a customer goes in to ask for your book everyone makes a bit of money.

For local bookshop sales, order stock for yourself and supply direct at 35% or 40% discount, depending on what they’ll accept — your profit will be greater because there is no middleman.

With Lightning Source you can also tailor discounts by country. Everything I had read suggested that 55% was the way to go with USA sales — to increase the chances of the books being discounted on and other online stores. This has certainly worked for me, though my USA print sales are no-where near my UK ones.

Lightening Source - examle discount options

Lightning Source – choosing pricing & discounts

Persuading Gardners wholesalers to stock my books

On the back of my book sales through Waterstones events (see below) I was able quite early on to persuade the wholesaler Gardners to keep my book in stock, by which I mean they ordered stocks in from Lightning Source before receiving orders rather using the print-on-demand ordering system. Miraculously I also persuaded them to stock my books on a ‘no return’ basis.  This was highly unusual for a self-publisher. The combination of these two things made it easy and quick for Waterstones to get books in. It also enabled me to put myself forward for the LoveReading4KidsUK website which at that time would only list you if you were showing ‘in stock’ with Gardners.

Today I think it unlikely that you’ll be able to persuade Gardners or other wholesalers to stock your self-published book (as opposed to ordering it via print on demand when a customer asks for it) unless:

  • you can persuade them that you will be able to make volume sales
  • you also are prepared to offer a very high discount (likely to be 55%- 65% – determined by them)

It is also highly unlikely they would stock it on a ‘no return’ basis unless you start selling in very high numbers. I think it was a question of ‘right time and right place’ for me!

Stock check facility at Gardners

Checking stock at Gardners by inputting the ISBN

My arrangement with Gardners changed in early 2015 as a result of a different approach I had to take with Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep which I printed upfront rather than using print on demand. The outcome was that for a year I supplied all of my books to Gardners direct on a 50% discount basis with right of return.  This arrangement has now ended as I found that most of my sales were at schools, or direct to Waterstones for events, as Waterstones found it more cost effective to take my books that way. I am now back to supplying using print-on-demand via Lightning Source to all UK retailers and wholesalers with a 40% or 45% discount

Book signings at Waterstones

I did four book signings with Waterstones in the lead-up to Christmas 2011 after publication of The Secret Lake.  In all cases I initiated contact to suggest the events – and then supplied posters/flyers to help with publicity. (I’ve become quite an expert at using Photoshop to create tailored posters from my cover artwork!)  At each event I sold 20-25 books over a 2-4 hour period. In the weeks that followed the stores sold more books.

I did further rounds of signings at five stores after the release of Eeek! in 2012 and then again after the release of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep in 2013 and Henry Haynes in 2014.  At these latest signings I sold as many copies if not more of The Secret Lake and Eeek! as I did of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep – averaging around 40 sales per event.

Here’s a picture of my stand at Richmond Waterstones in May 2013 – it was near the end of the day and nearly all books had sold – hence it’s looking a little empty!  Check out my marketing boards – easy to order through Prontaprint!

Karen Inglis - Waterstones Richmond book signing event

Waterstones Richmond event

As I am not well known there are never queues outside the door – but the sales are steady and solid, and customers are always really interested to hear about the books.  I always take extra copies in case the store runs out of its own – where this happens they run my extra books through their till and then ‘owe’ me the ones of my own I’d sold which they replaced by ordering more.

The added benefit of these events is that I got to know the children’s buyers quite well and felt confident that they would look out for my book in the store.

In the early days Waterstones ordered my books for events via Gardners – but more recently they were keener to buy direct from me due to the heavy discount taken by Gardners. By selling direct at 40% both I and they made more money. As it’s been two years since my last book came out I’m not sure what they current strategy is, but with Walter Brown coming out in May I hope to find out soon.

Sales support for material bookshops

I supply my local bookshops and Waterstones with bespoke shelf talkers (little cards with the book’s logo and a short summary of the plot), which get fixed onto the shelf by the book). I created these by experimenting with Photoshop and using the artwork from the book cover. Mine tends to stand out from the other shelf talkers because it is different – and it means that at least two branches of Waterstones have had my books face out in the past – and both of my local bookshops continue to do so.

The Secret Lake - shelf talker

The Secret Lake ‘shelf talker’

I also supply posters advertising my reading events – or the fact that signed copies of my books are in-store.

Ferdinand Fox event poster at Chiswick Waterstones

Ferdinand Fox event poster Chiswick Waterstones

Library readings

Just after I published The Secret Lake I gave a reading at our local library. I was incredibly nervous that no-one would turn up – or that I would get a huge room full of children and their parents to read to, which would have been very daunting!

As it turned out I had the perfect number for a first event – seven children plus parents and a few passers-by; so about 15 in all. This was intimate enough to allow me to chat with all of the children and answer their questions and get a good feel for whether the story was capturing their imagination – which I’m glad to say it was. It was fantastic to see them with their hands in the air all wanting to ask questions.

School visits

In January 2012 I started out by doing readings in one of the local schools, which has no less than three intakes each of eight and nine year olds and asked if I could come and see each individually! Whilst it was a lot of work, it was great fun – and those six sessions were invaluable as a ‘testing ground’ for me – to see which elements of the book worked best for such an event, and how long I had to get through them and how I would break up the reading with questions.

These readings, which were a huge success, led to sales via our local bookshop and to a request from another local school to visit their 36 eight-year-old boys – which in turn led to another request from a further school to read to 75 of their children on World Book Day 2012! All of this happened before I had time to pick up the phone to them. These last two schools actively contacted parents before the events and in all I sold about 100 books after these readings 🙂

Having stepped back from the ‘day job’ in March 2013 I managed to book in events at five further schools between March and June 2013. This included another World Book Day event in March, which got local press coverage in the Richmond & Twickenham Times here.  I have since done many more school visits in my local area and beyond. Sales range between 30 and 80 per visit, depending on class size and number of year groups I present present to; this can range from a single year group at one or two sessions to the whole school across a day and several sessions.

Gaining reviews

I’ve been very fortunate so far with my reviews – for all of my books. Below is a brief history of how I got there but I should stress that the star ratings are based on the readers’ personal views and out of my control – I know very few of the people who have left reviews. On that basis I am just delighted that the books have been so well received.

The Secret Lake - Amazon UK reviews

Amazon UK – 41 reviews for The Secret Lake as at April 2016

  • In the case of both The Secret Lake and Eeek! I received 5 Stars from the ex Head Reader for Puffin UK who now runs The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books in London. I contacted her as 10 years earlier I had done a one-day course on writing for children that she had led. I thought she might not remember me – but she did and was more than happy to review my books!
  • A few weeks after I published The Secret Lake, I had read on a blog about Amazon’s ‘Top 100’ reviewers so did some research and found the list.  Scanning down I found someone who reviews children’s books (and other products) but clearly also loves history and historical dramas on the BBC. Since The Secret Lake is a ‘time-slip’ mystery adventure in which the children find themselves in their London home 100 years in the past I thought I’d contact her to see if she’d like to review it. I was astonished to hear back within the hour – she told me that she was so busy that she wasn’t taking on much other stuff, but that she so liked the look of the book she’d like to review it.  I was then thrilled when she dropped me an email within a week to say that she’d read it to her six-year old daughter and given it 5 stars! (This was especially heartening as she had explained that she doesn’t post reviews unless a book is worthy of 4 or 5 stars, but instead lets the author know she felt didn’t work).  These reviews are referenced and linked to from my website and you can of course see them on Amazon.
  • For all books I did a Goodreads Giveaway – these are simple to run and you can offer as many or few books as you want to.  I opted for three each time.  In each case I sent a hand signed copy of the book and a short note asking if the winner would mind leaving a review. I’m sure this encouraged the reader to take the time to post the review – I know that in some cases authors fail to get reviews post Giveaway.
  • At the end of The Secret Lake and Eeek! I encourage children to leave their own reviews on the book’s website – with a promise that I always reply (which I do!). I set this up – finding my way through WordPress – so that children can do this anonymously and safely. Click the image below to see it more closely. You’ll also get a sense of the backdrop on a big screen! Or go over to The Secret Lake Reviews Page – I was bowled over by the feedback! (May latest review came in in March 2016.)
Children's reviews of The Secret Lake

Children’s reviews of The Secret Lake – I always reply!

  • I initially found a few children through my local librarian – offering a free signed copy of the book in return for a review on the books’ website (good or bad!). Once the librarian identified volunteers, I took care to communicate with their parents to be sure they were happy about this, which they all were. Some of the children have left reviews on Amazon too.
  • Over time as the print and Kindle sales have increased, more and more children (and sometime parents) have left reviews – both on the book’s website and on Amazon or Goodreads – or Waterstones.
  • I also contacted the Families South-West Magazine here in the UK – they have children reviewers and quickly found me a keen 11-year-old for The Secret Lake – another great bit of exposure to my target market! You can read her review here

Traditional PR 

I have a marketing / PR background – and I’m a professional copywriter ‘by day’ – so I didn’t shy away from the challenge of generating traditional PR when I first launched The Secret Lake. It took perseverance and effort – including a lot of calls to track down the right contacts and then tailor my press releases to their publications. But it paid off and I gained significant coverage in the local press and glossy local magazines in south-west London, and the same again in the Notting Hill area.

With Eeek! I had less time due to day job commitments, but with the launch of Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep I managed the local newspaper (the earlier mentioned Richmond and Twickenham Times article) and local magazines.

Of course the serious challenge for any indie author is to try to get PR coverage nationally. This used to be impossible, but the tide is slowly turning…

In the meantime, if any national journalists are reading this and would like to write a feature article about my self-publishing journey, please do get in touch!

Reading charities

In 2013 I donated 50 copies of Eeek! to the Beanstalk charity and had a highly successful visits to an inner London school in support of the Get London Reading campaign. The surprise there was that I sold well over 50 books, which had been the last thing I had somehow expected! Eeek! has been singled by parents, teachers and LoveReading4Kids as as a great book for boys and reluctant readers and it was on the back of this that I approached Beanstalk.

Speaking events

In May of 2012 I was asked to speak alongside others at Birbeck College (University of London) at event entitled ‘Self-publishing – Vanity Fair or Brave New World’. The hall was packed with MA Creative Writing students and received coverage in The Spectator. My invitation came on the back of this self-publishing blog and the successes I had made with my sales and marketing.

In 2013, I was asked to speak at two further (unrelated) events in June, each focusing on children’s / YA book publishing.  The first – hosted by The Children’s Book Circle at Penguin HQ – was attended by agents, aspiring and published children’s authors, book publishers and editors. Here the discussion topic was ‘Self-publishing: The Good, The Bad, The Future.’  For the second event Kobo Writing Life asked me to give a talk on self-publishing  as part of a Curtis Brown Creative Writing Course run by UK children’s author Tony Bradman. The speakers who made up the rest of that day were Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books, and Malorie Blackman, our new Children’s Laureate!  Needless to say I was both humbled and extremely proud to find myself billed alongside such incredible company! My one regret is that other commitments meant I was unable to stay on to meet them after lunch!

Social Media Marketing


As with all children’s authors, I face the challenge that my target market is not supposed to be active on social media such as Facebook or Twitter! And even where some are going incognito, they will generally not be holding the purse strings at age 8-12! As a result my messages are generally aimed at parents, but with half a mind that some of my Facebook followers may be under age!

My current book Facebook pages are listed below – but with hindsight it’s not a strategy that I would recommend as it stretches me too thinly!  For that reason I subsequently established my Karen Inglis (Author) Facebook page which I try to use for posting about my activity for all books, to ensure I capture people who are active on Facebook rather than in the blogosphere. At present I’m not there as often as I’d like to be – but hope to rectify that this year!

Karen Inglis children's author facebook page

Click to ‘Like’ my Facebook author page

Ideally I’d like to find a way to migrate my 400 or so book fans  from the other pages below there!  I’m not sure there’s a way to do it, but it on my to-do list to find out how. Self-publishing guru Joanna Penn – in  ‘How To Market A Book‘ (which I would highly recommend) rightly points out that creating a Facebook page for each book is not the right approach!  I’ve lived and learnt that. For interest here are those other pages and you will now see a holding message encouraging visitors to like my main author page instead.


Tweeting as a book feels more manageable and I’ll maintain my separate book Twitter accounts listed below for now as each gives me the opportunity to put the book ‘brand’ out into the ether where twitter discussions about children’s publishing are taking place for different age groups. I think this one account per book approach, though hard work, may work better for children’s authors than for adult authors – though I don’t beat myself up if I can’t keep my Twitter posts up as often as I’d like!

Interviews and listings on book blogs

I’ve listed my books on several children’s book blogs – mainly in the USA where I feel I need more exposure – and provided interviews with several of the blog hosts.  However I’ve found it hard to find time to do this as much as I’d like. There really are only so many hours in a day!

I’ve was accepted onto the Awesome Indies website early on – which requires testimonials from professional editors before acceptance. My thanks to Louise Jordan of the Writers Advice Centre for Children’s Books for her support here!

Future marketing and PR…

In late 2015/early 2016 I have been testing out new marketing strategies which are still in the experimental and measuring phase – I will provide more detail after the launch in May of new book Walter Brown and the Magician’s Hat (opens in new tab)

Karen Inglis

Updated January 2016 – with apologies for it being a little hurried!

35 Responses to Marketing tips

  1. Pippa says:

    Hi Karen
    Thanks so much for your email answering the question I posted in the POD thread. I also bought your book on POD, which is brilliant btw 🙂

    My book is selling (albeit very slowly :)) on Amazon USA – I think all credit to AMS Adverts. I’m keen to do the same on Amazon UK too.

    I understand that AMS adverts is not supported directly by the KDP interface for Amazon UK. I followed the link mentioned in your book to the Amazon Advantage page. However, the process is still very unclear to me.

    As the Amazon Advantage account appears to be for vendors, does that mean I have to manage the postage and packing as well? Or can I just run AMS adverts on my book as a ‘sponsored product’ with Amazon handling the logistics for the book (similar to AMS averts USA)? Do i then have to register as a vendor using the same account as for Amazon KDP? Also, if I go for the individual plan as I only sell a few books, each book sale costs 75p plus the cost of cpc on AMS i guess (which seems exorbitant for me!:))

    I’ve seen your books displayed on the UK site as sponsored products and wondered whether you would have any pointers please? There’s a lot of online info (videos and books ) for self-publishers using AMS but everything I’ve seen so far refers to and not

    Thanks very much
    Best regards

  2. Ian says:

    Wow, Karen- what an amazing site! Thanks so much for putting up all of this information and sharing your tips, ideas and strategies. You’ve clearly taken a lot of time and trouble over it – it’s all incredibly useful and really appreciated. Don’t waste time replying to me – get some more books written!

  3. This is fantastically useful, I’m just so please that I’ve managed to find such kind and supportive people out there who are willing to give this sort of advice. I am really enjoying reading your posts and plotting my next marketing strategy. I have a couple of small indie bookshops that carry my first children’s book and I’m getting ready to launch a second, this time I’m going to be ready for it and being able to read blogs like your really make it a lot less daunting than the first time I set out.
    What do you think about book PR packages, are they useful or not worth the time? I’ve used them for other peoples work (I run a titchy indie publishing company) but never my own. Do you thin they can make enough of a difference to sales figures?
    Thanks again for the post

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi there — personally I don’t recommend spending money on a PR campaign as I’m not convinced that it would lead to enough sales/long-term awareness that would justify the cost. As you know it’s hard at the best of times to make money from children’s books and in my experience these packages can be expensive. In addition any national campaign would need to be supported by presence in bookshops and a sales team raising awareness with booksellers and unless you have that distribution set-up in place then I don’t think it would work. I did my own local press releases for The Secret Lake and tied these in with events at local bookshops that I had set up by getting in contact with them. (And this all worked because they liked The Secret Lake — and my later books.) As you will know from what I’ve already said on this blog, it’s really school visits where most sales are made. In terms of other markeiting/PR I would start local doing it yourself as I did and see how it goes — then if sales really takes off review whether you could justifiy a PR package? I hope this helps! Karen

      • Ginger Duncan says:

        My name Ginger Duncan. I have questions. Please call me. 410-463-7282. Thank you

        Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

        Self-publishing adventures wrote:

        > a:hover { color: red; } a { text-decoration: none; color: #0088cc; } a.primaryactionlink:link, a.primaryactionlink:visited { background-color: #2585B2; color: #fff; } a.primaryactionlink:hover, a.primaryactionlink:active { background-color: #11729E !important; color: #fff !important; } /* @media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .post { min-width: 700px !important; } } */ kareninglis commented: “Hi there — personally I don’t recommend spending money on a PR campaign as I’m not convinced that it would lead to enough sales/long-term awareness that would justify the cost. As you know it’s hard at the best of times to make money from children’s book”

  4. Anjalika says:

    Hi Karen, my first book is going to be out next month. I have been reading all your articles religiously, learning from your experience. I am in the process of creating my blog / site on WordPress and I wanted to ask you if created your blog from scratch on your own or did you get some technical help? I think self publishing authors need to be savvy in their budgeting. As I move forward in this journey, I am learning that there is no end to how much you can end up spending before your first book comes out. Editing, packaging, marketing etc. A simple yet well designed blog / site is a huge marketing tool and I am deciding between doing it myself or hiring someone to optimize my blog etc. I guess it is not just the financial aspect but also the time aspect. Time spent on going through video tutorials to set up my blog could be time spent on networking, writing and writing some more! Would love to know your thoughts….

    Once again, thank you for being a beacon of light for all the self publishers out there!

  5. Jill says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for all this wonderful info. I’m here like everyone else looking for insight. I’m actually the artist wanting to write my own stories, so I’m hopeful that will be somewhat of an advantage. We’re also homeschoolers and have access to a wide range of homeschool communities and organizations… seems logical for them to be my initial target. You’ve provided a lot of helpful insight for marketing….thank you.

  6. Anjalika says:

    Hi Karen,

    I am on a question asking spree today!! Once again, thank you for all the advice you give here. I have two questions – when did you set up the websites / blogs for each of your books? Did you set them up before the books were released or after? I have set up a facebook page to start marketing my character but I am wary about setting up a blog because I don’t want to give away too much information about the story since it is an adventure. So if I set up a blog about the book before the book is launched, what exactly am I blogging about? Secondly, I wanted to ask if you set up your own publishing house? i will be purchasing my own ISBN and am contemplating setting up my own publishing house as well. Any guidance in that area?


    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Anjalika

      I set up the websites once the books were ready. But I would not recommend setting up separate sites for each book because it ends up being time consuming once you have more than one and you then aren’t sure where to direct people to. Instead set up an author blog site and then use one part to tell readers about yourself and then have your books covered in different sections – see my author website at to see how I’ve gone about this. In terms of what you blog about that is up to you. I don’t blog regularly – I never have. But each to his or her own! In terms of FB pages I’d do the same – set up one for you an an author and talk about all of your work there. I think I have blogged about this change of strategy in here somewhere! (apologies if not… I’ve written so much I now don’t recall…) Re publishing house I think you just mean an imprint name… you can call it what you want. I can’t offer more guidance than that other than the fact that you can do it either as self-employed sole trader or as a limited company. I’d not set up a limited company unless you hit the big time! So just come up with your imprint name if you want to use one and that would be the name you would include somewhere on your tax return when talking about your self-employment… I cover self-employment and tax in another section. But I would also say that you might want to hold off on setting up as self-employed until you have some sales under your belt… That’s what quite a few people do I believe.. All the very best with it. Karen

  7. Mel Deverell says:

    Hi Karen
    Thank you for sharing your experience on this site – it is invaluable!
    I wonder whether you could give me your opinion on ISBNs please? I am due to publish via CreateSpace (I am UK-based) and you are only able to access expanded distribution if you choose this option. Would I be tied in to Amazon only if I used their ISBN number? Would I be better buying my own batch of numbers and then being able to place it on other sites?
    Also, what are the costs involved in having your own imprint? What freedom/advantage does having your own imprint give you?
    Kind regards

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Mel – can I suggest that you read my section – and a lot of the very latest comments – on Print On Demand because this goes into the pros and cons of using CS ISBNs and the ‘cons’ of using their Expanded Distribution if you are in the UK – in short if you want your book to appear in the data feeds of UK bookshops and for people to be able to order it from UK bookshops then you don’t want it to have a CS ISBN or be in expanded distribution because bookshops will see the Amazon connection and not warm to it. You’d be better using your own ISBN – and using that same ISBN on CS for and Amazon in Europe, (and not selecting Expanded Distribution) and then signing up with Ingram Spark to cover distribution for everything else. Ingram Spark won’t let you sign up with a CS ISBN or if you are in CS’s Expanded Distribution because the latter is basically Amazon piggy backing on Ingram’s worldwide data feed but listing the title as being supplied by ‘CS’. If you let Ingram Spark distribute for you in the UK you have more flexibility. I hope this helps – but do go and read the threads – I think there is also something on the ISBN page too (again look at the comments…).

      By having your own imprint rather than self-publishing as a CreateSpace title you give yourself the chance to take your books into local bookshops and try to persuade them to stock it. You can also order short print runs from Ingram Spark (or in my case Lightning Source) if you want to. CS doesn’t offer short print runs as far as I know – but even if they did I’m not sure that you’d get far with a UK bookshop!

      Having your own imprint also gives you a ‘brand’. It’s just a name really – it can be anything you want it to be.

      I hope this helps…


  8. Rachel Sainsbury says:

    Hi Karen

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article to help fellow self publishers. Our local Waterstones have said they would like to stock our book and for us to host a book signing. We are at the stage of creating marketing materials to promote the book signing. I would be extremely grateful if you send me sample artwork of your promo flyer and shelf talker to give me some inspiration. Our book is targeted at stressed-out workers and parents! You can see a taster at My email is I will send you a copy when it arrives!

    Joyful regards,
    Rachel Sainsbury

  9. Hi Karen,

    I think you are missing a trick here. I saw you owned the domain names you mentioned so I went to them and – as you said – they forwarded to your WordPress website.

    Hmm. Why do you not open an account with a website host provider such as GoDaddy or one of the many others so that people going to your domain stay on your website rather than a WordPress one? Most website providers allow you to install your own copy of the WordPress program (which gives you more control than using so your websites could look and feel as they do now without you having to learn anything new. You would also get email accounts (e.g. or any other of your domain names). It would help you to look more business-like and would enable you to add other features such as newsletter sign-ups and so on.

  10. Hi, Karen. I want to thank you for your informative posts. I have been blessed by the information you’ve shared. I am self-publishing my first children’s picture book. I am awaiting the final illustrations, and then I’ll be using Create Space for the paperback and Lightning Source for the hardcover. I’m in the US and the illustrator is in the UK. It has been a wonderful collaboration. I have dozens of questions for you, but I’ll limit myself to one: What has been your most successful tool to get your books noticed? I am active in our local animal shelter, and they have graciously offered to host my first book signing. I know the audience will be mostly friends and family. I appreciate any tips you have for reaching out and capturing the attention of people other than my loved ones.

    Thank you so much,

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Michelle – huge apologies for my delayed response. It was a very busy week last week and I’m only just catching up with myself! I’d say that the most successful way to get your book noticed is to attend events where you can meet your readers. So that means book signings in your local area at events or bookshops (and how fantastic that you already have that in hand!). The other key way is through school visits (which might be nursery school visits depending on what age your book is pitched at). I talk about this above and also in some detail in my blog interview with Joanna Penn, which you can see here You could also try your local library – ask if they do a regular story time and offer to go in and read your book and provide signed copies for anyone who’d like one. In all cases it will help if you offer to provide a promo sheet that they can put up or send home to parents (by email or in print). Be warned that marketing is extremely hard work – but it’s incredibly rewarding when you meet the children and see their eyes light up as they listen to your story! All the very best with it. You can also read about the format of my school visits over on my author blog on this page: I hope this helps and the very best of luck! Karen

  11. Jack Gavin says:

    Hi Karen

    Thanks for all the useful information on the site. It’s been really insightful to read. I just had one question about barcodes? Getting mixed messages from research about their usefulness, but I assume it better to have one than not? Would you recommend any suppliers?


    Jack Gavin

  12. Ginger Duncan says:

    How do I make money. I’m a newly published other. Second book just published on Dec.27. First book was out Aug.29 both in 2013. I’ve had 4 book signings total. Three with first book and one three days ago with recent book. Two at daycare I use to work and just stopped recently and two at local library.Where do I go from here. I now live on unemployment and would love to do this for a living because its always been my dream. I don’t no how to and where to go to ask people if I can do book signings. I live in Cambridge,MD. I’m order to continue to write other books I need to sell some first. My books are on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. My publishing company set that up. Any advice for me.I need this badly. I want to do what I live to do

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Ginger

      If you read above you’ll see that one good way to reach your readers is to contact local schools to try to set up an author visit (or this could be local playgroups if your child is very young…) As well as offering to do a reading, also let the school know that children will have the chance to buy signed personalised copies.

      I have written about this above and for the Alliance of Independent Authors and talked about it in more detail at a recent interview with Joanna Penn so I’m posting links below which I hope you and others will find of practical help:

      1/ See this piece I wrote:

      2/ Listen to this interview about how tough it is being a children’s author – Joanna asks me about school visits from 27 minutes ..

      I’d recommend creating a free WordPress Blog for you and your books too – which you can refer schools to when you contact them.

      I think it’s very difficult to make a living as a children’s author so I’d always recommend trying to find other income to supplement it if you can. I write professionally too and that helps me…

      All the very best – I think/hope you will find the links useful.


  13. Thanks!

    I have thought about print books, or at least print-on-demand. Things to do, things to do!!

  14. I have found my way over here through your article featured in Kobo Writing Life. I have found it challenging to tackle the marketing for children’s books, because as you’ve noted, they cannot be online or on social media like an adult, nor do they control the purse strings. Thank you for sharing your process! I will be bookmarking this to return to for a closer review.

    Right now, I have published my children’s books under various pen names through my own indie publishing house, Bright Green Books ( and only as eBooks. But, much marketing work to be done. My Spy Skills for Girls is selling well, but my mysteries need some marketing TLC.

    Good luck to you!

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Carmen

      Best of luck to you and I hope you find something useful here. Having the books in print makes it easier really as it means you can set up school events and sell quite a lot of books in one go…or organise signings at local bookshops. But of course if you hit the big time on the internet that’s where the real numbers can be. It’s just so much harder with kids’ books though because the ‘buyers’ are not the kids, as we’ve both noted!

      I love your book covers!

      All the best,


    • donharold says:

      The trick here I believe is to market your book to adults through children. School visits and readings mentioned here are among the best ideas. If the kids love your book, then the teachers and parents may love it too.

  15. kareninglis says:

    Hi Alistair – thanks for the feedback – and for placing an order! I hope you enjoy whichever book you bought and a review would be great! (By the way, as well as self-publishing via CS in the USA I also use Lightening Source UK through whom I also have an agreement in Australia where they print locally. Too late now – but I am pretty sure you could order my book/s through your local bookstore! (I’ve seen them on Oz online stores…).. Still, I am sure the European/US Amazon order will reach you in due course!

    I’ve just enjoyed watching your Zimbabwean bungee jump! What a great trip you seem to have had – and sounds as if the whole family has settled well. Thanks for the forum suggestions/tips – I tend to lurk around parenting forums, though finding the time while working full time is pretty hard! Very best of luck when your book comes out. Your blog posts certainly look great so it sounds as if it will be a good travel book! Why not do a giveaway on Goodreads to get interest (you’ve probably thought of that…). It certainly worked for me – and sending a signed copy with a note works well.


    • Hi Karen- thanks for the tip about Goodreads and the postive feedback about my blog. There were a few reasons why I purchased your book (Secret Lake). First…because I enjoyed reading the free chapters. Second because I was intrigued on how easy it would be to purchase. (I wasn’t a member of Amazon until I purchased your book).
      This proved an easy, pain free exercise.
      Third…I feel that self publishing authors need to support each other. You are doing this by giving out invaluable advice. My help was actually making a purchase.
      Now that my travel book is about ready for launch into cyberspace I have finally realised that the exciting (and challenging) period is next. This is the marketing of the book and the author.
      Thanks again..

  16. Hi Karen, I have been following your posts for some time and decided to take the plunge and have ordered a book via Amazon. i live in Australia so it may take a few weeks. I have been impressed with your openess and honesty with regards to the journey of writing, self publishing and promoting books.
    Reading the first chapter free was a prompt for action….
    Good luck with the sales. Not everyone can crack the USA market. Being a music fan I think of the famous UK acts that tried and failed (The Jam, Blur Snow Patrol).
    But there has been success (Clash, The Who, Beatles, Oasis)
    I wonder if this was luck or a change of strategy.

    Do we need to think like Americans?

    I have recently joined USA forums (squidoo for example) which seem to mainly get USA readers. By posting on USA only sites you may gather some momentum.
    I will review the book once it has arrived
    Best Regards

  17. Sam says:

    Good morning Karen,
    Good Grief! I just spent a short time going over the rest of your blog. How in the world do you produce all of this, a couple of books and a day job? A tip of the hat to ya.
    Could you use some of your great amount of spare time and check out our page turning feature on our website,, and give me an opinion of the market for A Prayer For Little Kicker in the UK. We are using Lightning Source for Amazon and Barns & Noble distribution of a soft cover, and our web site and local bookstores for hardcover distribution.
    Is there a market for Little Kicker Books in the UK?

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi again Sam
      I wrote both The Secret Lake and Eeek! several years ago when the kids were younger and I had more time at home – and I’ve just had a year’s sabbatical during which I was able to do most of the work to get them to market (at least with The Secret Lake). It’s harder now that I’m back on a work contract but at least Eeek! is pretty much there… just ironing out last hitches with the print proof… So, I’m not quite as amazing at multi-tasking as it may seem! I’ve found little time to Tweet etc since going back to work – I really must correct that! However, I am making time to attend school readings – I read to 36 children last week and have 75 to do later this week!

      I’m afraid I can’t really tell you what the market would be for books like yours in the UK – but it may be worth you while Googling Christian children’s bookshops in the UK? I recall seeing one in Kensington High Street London W8 about 6 months ago when I was there – or at least it had a children’s section…. I’m sure you’d find it through search easily? Perhaps you could email them and that may lead to other ideas?

      Best of luck!


  18. Sam says:

    Karen, thanks for sharing your experience. Specially appreciated your insight on reviews. The children are loving our book, A Prayer For Little Kicker, but we are not marketing to children, are we? Getting adults to stop and see the books added value is difficult. Perhaps we need to seek reviews from the kids. Will be printing off this blog to be reread and reconsidered at a future time. We are birthing our second book, Little Kicker’s First Rainstorm. Will have it along side our first one on our website,
    BTW, is this a QR on your blog? If so, why? Are you using a QR on your print and/or eBooks?

    • kareninglis says:

      Hi Sam – many thanks for the kind words… Yes, marketing to children is problematic! What is a QR? I don’t understand your question? Apologies – I probably should!


      • donharold says:

        I believe he is referring to a QR code. More like a bar code that is when read by a device such as a smartphone with a QR code reader will give data such as redirecting to a website, coupons, discount codes, etc.

  19. Karen, can I add my thanks to those of others. Really clear and helpful advice. I am just about to self publish AS/A level Business Studies text books, which are currently available as online resources for subscribing schools/colleges – that has got some interest, so I am looking at books too. (see

    Your website is a beacon of calm, reason and good sense!

    Very best of luck with your books, though I suspect you do not need it.


    • kareninglis says:

      Many thanks, Simon. I’m glad you’ve found it of use. I do hope to add some more info soon – I’m a bit snowed under between getting Eeek! ready for launch on 29 Feb and juggling professional writing stuff! Watch out for info around prepping an e-book with black and white illustrations for launch!

      Please feel free to share/recommend this site with friends – and indeed to share/recommend the links to my books on Amazon with friends who may have children! (The Secret Lake is really popular – sales now approaching 1,000 between print and Kindle! But I’m not about to retire on it!) As my target market is not easily accessible on blog/facebook/twitter I have to find other means to get to them…!

      Best wishes, Karen

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