Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Building (or shrinking) my mailing list

I recently dusted off my trusty mailing list and moved it from MailChimp to ConvertKit. I am loving ConvertKit (apart from a minor link glitch – learning moment!) and I have high hopes for growing my list with their lovely landing pages and forms.

What’s interesting is the unsubscribes! Now, I get a lot of email, and I also unsubscribe when I’m no longer interested. And of course, sometimes you just sign up to get a freebie and then you’re like ‘Huh? How come they keep emailing me!’

Photo by burak kostak on

I’m fine with it – really I am. I’m not broken-hearted. If readers sign up to get the free book but aren’t really interested in further books or what I have to say and share, then of course I don’t want them on my list. It costs money to keep subscribers on a list, so keeping it engaged is a key task.

So what I’ve decided to do now – just to keep my ego relatively safe – is focus on shrinking my list for a while. Yes, that’s right! I’m going to view each of those unsubscribes as a gift. I want to shrink my list down and down and down … and even if I end up with only 20 subscribers, if they are all people with a genuine interest in hearing about my books and engaging in topics around reading and stories, then I am happy to wave goodbye.

I do plan to do a bit of canvassing though, on social media, to find out how often people are happy to get emails land in their inboxes. All the experts say to send them weekly – and not to only email when you have news or want to sell a book. Which makes sense. But this is all new to me – or at least, it’s changed a lot during the years I allowed my list to gather dust.

What do you think? Weekly? Twice a month? More or less often? I supposes the answer is test, test, test, just like everything.

PS If you’d like to see what I’m sending to my subscribers you can sign up here.

Listen To My Indie Author Podcast – “Total Transparency Is My Style”

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the awesome Paul Teague for my first ever podcast – and boy, it was fun! I was pretty nervous, but relieved that the recording wasn’t live. Paul has instructions on his website – including things you might not think about such as trying to make sure your environment is as noise-free as possible (phones ringing, kids screaming, barking dogs don’t do well on podcasts for obvious reasons) – and I had to get hold of some headphones and a microphone and log into Skype. No video, just audio. So I didn’t need to worry about how I looked!


The recording of the interview itself was stress-free – apart from an incident with a neighbour’s howling dog (!) which saw me dashing into another part of the house to find a quiet spot. And Paul is so incredibly professional, he put me at my ease immediately. I had no idea what we were going to talk about beforehand – Paul likes to avoid over-preparing to keep the content and the conversational flow nice and fresh. Chatting over Skype was fun and easy, and it wasn’t long before I was sharing … probably a little too much!

But hey, that’s what I do. Complete transparency has always been my default position, and while I completely support and understand other people’s desire to keep their mouths shut about such things as how many books they sell and how much they earn every year, I just open my big old mouth and it all comes gushing out. Along with some interesting thoughts about publishers, the world of writing courses, and writing in general.

If you’re ready to listen, click here. And please leave a comment below to let me know what you thought. Be kind!

Summer Self-Publishing Dreams? Take Action Now

What are your writing and publishing goals for the summer months this year? At Easter I always find myself thinking forward to July and August, because these are always quiet times for book sales. Three months doesn’t seem like a long time – but you’d be surprised at what you could accomplish in that period if you really set your mind to it. Here are a couple of writer-situations, and my ideas about what you could manage in the next three months …

What is your story

Suppose you’re just finishing your first book right now, and you fancy launching it in July – the idea beach read, right? To be honest, you’ve already missed the boat for the beach read market – that ship sails around May – but that’s no reason to give up on your goals. July and August are arguably great times to launch a new book as there is less competition. Here is your three month schedule:

April – beta readers for book, line up proofreader, start blogging and platform-building, decide on marketing strategy, think about cover design after analyzing competition, approach key book bloggers.

May – final edit, send to proofreader, get cover designed, keep building that platform and buzz around new book, finalize review requests, typesetting and formatting.

June – ebook ready (and print files ready if going for paperback), send to reviewers, plan launch event, arrange key advertising e.g. Facebook, build buzz, organise blog tour.

July – Launch that book into the world!

It sounds like a lot of hard work because it is – but that’s the fun part. And if you feel you need a bit of help with any of the above, don’t forget about the Self-Publishing Success course I tutor for Writers’ Workshop – it’s not too late to sign up for April’s presentation. You can sign up here, or read a great testimonial here.

Or say you’ve already got a book published, or a couple of books, but sales have been lackluster lately and you need a bit of a boost. What could you achieve in three short months? Let’s see …

April – pick your best book and submit it to BookBub for an international promotion. Whether you get a yes or not, decide this is the book you are going to push as a summer read. Visit VistaPrint and have some fun merchandise made up – people love pens and notepads, fridge magnets, little bags, mugs. Set a date for your promotion in mid May and decide whether you’ll go free or reduced price. (Free is usually best.)

May – build up a buzz about the book by blogging on a few author-friends’ blogs in various unusual forms. ‘Day in the life of’ the main character work well, or the history and background of the location/storyline. Keep up a profile on social media, sharing interesting stuff – not just about your own books! When the promotion date arrives, push it like crazy. No, even crazier than that!!! Get it out there, everywhere, and then get it out some more.

June – on the back of the promotion success, ask for reviews from key book bloggers. Keep up the momentum by planning your next promotion. Offer the goodies as incentives, or use as prizes on your website or FB page. Consider taking out an advertising banner on a key website, like Kindle Nation Daily, or some Facebook sponsored posts, to keep your book high in the charts.

Oh my goodness, I have so many ideas! But I’d better stop now as I’ve got work to do – and a lot to pack into three short months.

Self-Publishing Course – Fab Feedback

So the first presentation of the Writers’ Workshop self-publishing course has now come to a close, and it was so much fun I can’t wait to do it all over again in April! We had four ‘students’ sign up, which wasn’t bad for the first innings, and each of them contributed some stellar work and really got into the nitty gritty of the course materials.

One of the participants, author J.A. Ironside, has written a blog post about her experience on the course here – I’m so proud that she had such a positive time and learned so much. Like most tutors, I learned a lot while I was teaching the course too!


As I said in my comment on the above blog post, there is  so much information for self-publishing authors out there on the internet that what we wanted to do with this course was to bring together a really in-depth and targeted, properly tutored course that actually teaches people how to publish and sell their books. It’s not about just giving them some information to read in brief and then apply, or the resources to go away and skim over and then grapple with alone. This course uses the techniques of teaching and tutoring – setting homework tasks to test understanding; peer review and feedback; group discussion; marked assignments – to measure and cement understanding.

Best of all it’s all run under the comforting umbrella of Writers’ Workshop, who have been running online courses for years and years and totally know what they’re doing when it comes to the mechanics of the online classroom thing 🙂 The next presentation is in April, and if you fancy it pop over here to sign up. I’m going to leave the lovely J.A.Ironside to sum up who might be interested in this course before I sign off today:

If you’re just starting out Self-publishing or you’ve been doing it for a while but not seen much in the way of results, this course is for you. In fact if you think you know enough about self publishing, this course is for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough. J.A.Ironside

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