Free courses for writers

blogging-336375_1920_bookOne of our favorite writing/marketing consultant/bloggers, Jane Friedman, has an excellent email newsletter today, including a link to a “big list of free online courses for writers” from The Digital Reader.  There’s other good stuff too, including something for type geeks, drumming cat lovers, and researchers. You can read the entire newsletter, with links, here.

The free courses include graphics stuff, marketing, writing, social media and more.

Thinking of podcasting?

podcastpngSeems like everyone is talking about, listening too or planning a podcast. Why not you? It’s another avenue to share your expertise and reach readers. Visit for a primer on getting started in podcasting. Lots of good advice!

Check out some Catholic podcasts:


Me, start an email newsletter?


OSV Author Platform eNewsletter

How many email newsletters (enewsletters) do you get? Maybe you feel as if you get too  many and just hit delete on a lot of them — or even unsubcribe.


But what about the ones you really like?

Email is still the #1 way companies — and authors — communicate with their customers and readers. And it can be a very personal way of connecting.

If you don’t have any experience with sending enewsletters, never fear. There are tools to manage the  creating and sending part, and  we have hints to assist with the content part.

  1. Decide on an email management system (EMS). We’ve used and recommend Constant Contact, but there are others. Find some here (most have free options).
  2. Have a prominent “Subscribe here” button on your web site. The EMS you choose will have instructions for this. Your email list will be managed through the system you choose (unsubscribes, bounces etc.)
  3. Decide on your email template (there will be lots to choose from; simpler is better).
  4. Decide on your email frequency (once a month is great to start out).
  5. Create and send your first newsletter!

What should your enewsletter say? Great question. Some suggestions:

  1. Content from your blog, if you have one. Include an excerpt and link to a full post.
  2. Update on what you’re working on. Don’t give away the farm, but let your readers and prospective readers know how it’s going. One author I know uses a spreadsheet to keep track of his progress, and includes a screenshot of it.
  3. Excerpt from an earlier book, if you have one, with a link to purchase from OSV, Amazon, B&N.
  4. Have you spotted your book on a bookstore shelf? Great place to take a selfie and include in your enewsletter. Invite your readers to send you their “sightings” and “shelfies.”
  5. Any upcoming events like talks, webcasts, book signings or guest columns or articles.
  6. What you’re reading, or is on your “to be read” list, or your favorite author’s latest book.
  7. Links to your social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  8. A short reflection or prayer that you use before writing.
  9. Reflection on a saint or Bible verse that has helped you on your writing journey.
  10. Be sure to include an email address.
  11. Something fun you’ve read/done/want to do, or somewhere you’ve traveled.

Need more help?  Read this post from Writer’s Digest … this post from Medium … Jane Friedman has a post here …  and Think Writter has ideas here.


Top 6 author platform to-do’s

Write a bookThe #1 part of your author toolkit is … of course, your book! Next is your author platform. We have plenty of help for you. Here’s a quick-start list to help you get organized, with links to more detailed posts:

1. Write a book

2. Launch your author website (hopefully you’ve claimed your name [ or]. Here’s how.)

3. Create a Facebook author page and post regularly

4. Start an email newsletter

5. Populate your Amazon author page

6. Get active on Goodreads



How to write an author bio

One of the first things authors are asked for after their manuscript has been accepted is an author bio. And many authors ask: How do I write my author bio?


Back cover author bio.

Actually, you’re probably going to need more than one bio. But to get started, focus on a short, 150- to 200-word sketch, sharing who you are, your background, and any other info you think readers should know about you. Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into it, either!

Here’s a short checklist:

  • Write in the third person (unless you’re asked to do otherwise). [Mary Smith lives in Anytown, Indiana, with her husband and five children. …]
  • Be factual. Include experience that relates directly to your book. For your short bio, mention only the most recent/most pertinent experience; you can be a little more thorough in a longer bio. [Mary has worked in a parish for 10 years, mostly in religious education with a focus on teens. …]
  • Mention your education. Include your degrees in a short bio and more info in a longer one. [Mary graduated from XYZ Catholic College with a degree in theology. …]
  • Mention pertinent memberships or interests [Mary is a member of  the National Catholic Educational Association. ….]
  • Keep it short and sweet. This is the time to remember your lessons from Strunk and White.
  • Be sure to mention any unique aspect(s) of your work experience, education or personal life that arememorable. [Mary has traveled to Marian shrine sites on three continents. …]
  • Include your author website. You can also include social media handles if you’re okay with that information being public.
  • Send a good headshot photo along with your bio. This should be 4 x 6, and at least 300 dpi.

Here’s an example from the OSV Catholic Bookstore of a “short” bio for author Tim O’Malley:

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. He teaches in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He researches in the areas of liturgy, catechesis and Christian spirituality. He is the author of Liturgy and the New Evangelization: Practicing the Art of Self-Giving Love (Liturgical Press, 2014). He and his wife, Kara, live in South Bend and have one son.

Here’s a good article for more information, with examples.

Dig a little deeper with this article for a bio that will get attention on Amazon (great for your Amazon author page!).

Find some advice from Ingram here.

If you’ve never written a bio before, this author has some hand-holding advice. And this author has some things to avoid.

If you need help or advice, or if you have advice for your fellow authors, let us know! Email Mary Beth at

Website basics

(from the March 2018 newsletter)

It’s never been easier to create and maintain a website. So why don’t you?

Maybe because it seems a daunting task. Or too time-consuming. Or you’re not sure what to include. Or you don’t want to blog. Or you’re not sure exactly what a website would do for you. Or you’re just having a hard time getting started.

You’re not the only author to have these concerns. The truth is, while you should have a site, it can be as simple or as complex as you have time and talent for.

Your Author Toolkit team is here to help, so if you have specific questions, give one of us a call or email and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

Here’s a good starting point from Jane Friedman: “The Basic Components of an Author Website.” It’s an overview and introduction to getting your website up and running. Be sure to read the section “Continue improving your site over time.”

On a budget with time constraints? Check out these free website builders. Wix seems to lead the pack!

Goodreads and you

(from the May 2018 newsletter)


Are you a member of Goodreads? If you are, you know that it’s THE place for readers to connect with other readers, share the books they’re reading and find great recommendations for new ones.

It’s also an excellent place for authors to connect with readers. Goodreads has an Author Program you can join for free. If you already have an account and a published (or soon-to-be-published) book, you just need to sign in, search for your book and “claim” it by clicking on your author name, then the “Is this you? Let us know!” link (towards the bottom of the page), and follow the instructions. (If you don’t have an account, it’s easy to sign up. Just click here.)

Once you are verified as the author (you’ll get an email from Goodreads), your author profile will include the official Goodreads author badge and readers will be able to “follow” you.

Goodreads has a helpful Authors & Advertisers Blog with author profiles, Goodreads news, book marketing advice and interviews with publishing experts.

Now, you’ll be able to:

  • Take questions from readers
  • Write reviews of other books
  • Update your profile picture
  • Connect your web site or blog
  • Advertise your books
  • Promote your books by running a giveaway

Click here for the how-to instructions. You can follow Goodreads on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, too. Let us know how you’re using Goodreads to grow your audience!


What is Goodreads?

GOODREADSGoodreads is GOOD — for finding new reading material, following friends’ bookshelves, keeping track of your own reading — and for promoting your book(s).

If you don’t have a Goodreads account, it’s easy to join, or you can log in with your Amazon account. You’ll find reading suggestions, you’ll be able to connect with your contacts who are members already,  and you can build a community around your own work.

How? This blog post on the Goodreads website will get you started. You’ll find advice on filling your own online bookshelf, engaging with readers, how to mention your own book in comments, how to connect with reviewers, and more.

Let us know how you are using Goodreads to engage with your readers!

And be sure to follow Goodreads on Facebook and other social media.


What are your favorite digital tools?

Writer tools from Pixabay

Maybe you write your books in longhand, on legal pads. You balance your checkbook in an actual checkbook. You keep a day planner and make appointments on a landline. Your file cabinet is stuffed with, well, real paper files.

And all that is okay, because what’s important is that it works for YOU.

For the more digitally minded, writing consultant and digital tools expert Jane Friedman has her annual “Must-Have Digital Media Tools” post, and she covers everything from where she keeps her recipes (Paprika) to how she creates and sells her online course (Zippy Courses).

Whether you try one of her suggestions or all of them — or none of them — it’s always good to be open to new ways of looking at our work as authors and editors.

What tools do you depend on to do your best work? Let us know your best No. 2 pencil, your favorite pen, your go-to laptop or your best organization methods.

Read Jane Friedman’s post here.

But what do I tweet?

TwitterMaybe you’re already on Twitter — you’re active and tweet every day, you follow fellow authors and your readers, you enjoy following news and interacting with the Twitterverse.

Or maybe you don’t get it at all and wish Twitter would just fly away.

We’ll leave the arguments for and against alone for now, but if you’re new to the platform, or if your book is about to launch and you’re wondering how to boost interest (and sales!), here are some suggestions:

  1. Pictures of your cover — of you! — and of your friends and family reading/posing with your book
  2. Launch date info with links to order from OSV, Amazon, BN.
  3. Let people know when the ebook version (with links) is available.
  4. Book signings with location, dates and times. Take pictures and tweet those!
  5. Talks or speeches — have someone take pictures and tweet!
  6. Webcast dates, with reminders that your webcast is available afterwards
  7. Links and news about your book topic
  8. Follow similar authors/writers/experts and retweet interesting news, with your comments
  9. Share interesting facts/Scripture/quotes about your book topic
  10. Watch your ‘mentions’ and be sure to interact with your followers!

Here are some helpful links if you’d like to up your Twitter game: