Preparing for your First Book Market

TLDR: A few weeks ago, my husband stumbled across an advertisement for a brand new Book Market starting up called Books and Browsables here in Dublin (St. Patrick’s Park, Sundays 11-4 pm).

I jumped on the opportunity and booked myself a table at the event. I’ve never done a book market, and I was unsure how to prepare myself for it. Below I list my experience, what I took, and how it went overall.


Preparing to Sell

My excitement quickly turned to stone cold fear. Like a deer in the headlights, I had no idea what to do next. Simply having a table at a book market isn’t a guarantee to sell books. I needed to draw people to my table and supply as much information as possible in less than the 1 minute it would take them to walk on by.

Lucky for me, I’m a member of several self-publishing groups on Facebook, and they are chock-full of marketing ideas to get people to stop at your table.

Product: Make sure you have some

First things first, make sure you have plenty of books ready to sell. Currently, I have less than 20 copies of each book in my home. I quickly ordered 100 author copies of each book; then tried to breathe through the panic once I realized the books wouldn’t arrive for three weeks!!! Okay, brain, remain calm! It’s going to be okay; you have enough copies to get you through the first day. As of this posting, it’s been almost three weeks; my books will be arriving any day now.

Supply List: Things you (may) Need

For this market, I need to provide all my own supplies. It’s outdoors, and I don’t have a car, so everything must be portable and easy to set up.

Table:  I bought this metal folding camping table. It folds out to be 4ft by 2ft and comes with four folding camping chairs.

Tablecloth: I bought a colorful PVC tablecloth from my local home store to cover the table and make it stand out.

Marketing Swag: Things to hand out

For the following items, I designed them on Canva and used a local printer (

Bookmarks: I created a bookmark for each of my two books, with a picture from the cover on one side and information about the two books on the back. I used to create a scannable QR code that links back to my Amazon page.

Stickers: I created a temporary logo with my name and email address and made that into a sticker. Then I used my book covers to make a sticker for each book. These turned out a little smaller than I expected, and I’m not quite sure what to do with them at the moment, but I have them for when I figure it out.

Stickers with logo
Mystery of the Cursed Elves Stickers
Journey Through the Fairy Door stickers

Postcards: I wanted to create a sell sheet (1) if booksellers come to the event. Instead of fliers, I made postcards since they are easier to transport and quick to hand out.

Postcard sell sheet

Banner: I only have a table, and I wanted a poster attached to the front, so people know exactly who I am and what I’m selling. I think I’ll upgrade to a PVC vinyl poster that is more durable in this weather.

Banner for the front of the table

Fun Extras: To Bring People Over

Prize Wheel and prizes: I created a spinning wheel kids can spin for a chance to win prizes. I bought random toys like bouncy balls, stamps, and rings from the dollar store. I also purchased some fidget toys in bulk from Amazon for a mystery grab bag.

spinning prize wheel

Stickers: Kids always love stickers, so I bought a bunch (again from the dollar store).

Activity Sheets: I created a word search, maze, and word scramble using characters and themes from my books (2). I also used some illustrations as coloring pages and attached my info to the back page, including a QR code leading to my website and newsletter sign-up. These I had printed at a local copy shop.

Packing it in and out:

REI Bags: I have these fantastic travel bags from REI; they fold up when not in use and hold a lot of stuff.

Foldable Hand Truck: We bought a fold-up hand truck at Costco a few years back. It’s been great for hauling bags through the airport and is working out for transporting everything to and from the market.

Folding hand truck, with table strapped onto it.


Day One: How My First Day Went

The day started slow, and I wasn’t sure I was going to sell anything. I’m an introvert, and throwing myself out there was difficult(3). However, I smiled, greeted people as they passed by, and talked to everyone who stopped at my table.

I had my daughter with me, and she was great about asking kids to spin the prize wheel. For the kids under 3, we gave them a free sticker and bookmark. The older kids spun the wheel, got to pick a bookmark, and got the activity sheet. Not everyone who stopped bought a book, but I gave out several bookmarks, hopefully leading to extra sales.

I ended up selling ten books, which was more than I expected. About 50% of the parents who stopped to spin the wheel ordered a book. The other half thought their kids were too young for chapter books. I had several grandparents and other adults without kids stop and buy a book for Christmas presents and/or a gift.

All in all, the day was successful. I put myself out there, I put my books out there, and I made some sales.


Balloons: I plan on adding balloons to my table to attract the attention of more kids.

Bigger Prize Wheel: I need a bigger and more stable prize wheel as well as a sign advertising the free spin to win prizes.

Clear Plastic table cover: It’s Dublin, and it rains sporadically. I need a heavy-duty clear plastic table cover to drape over the books in case of rain and a place to attach my poster so it stays protected.

Book Stands: My books mainly were lying flat all day. People had to approach the table to see all I was selling. I’ve ordered some plastic book display stands to showcase the books better. Perhaps if people can see the books from a distance, it will draw them to me.


A book market is a great way to get your middle-grade or chapter books in front of adults. It’s nearly impossible to market directly to your target audience in this specific genre; you have to reach the buyers of books.

Anyone can do a book market or book fair. It does take a little start-up money, but it won’t break the bank if you plan accordingly and shop around for the best prices. If you can make your booth or table stand out, you should turn a profit and make that money back, plus some. Be sure to welcome everyone who passes by, be friendly, and give them something to take home with your information on it.

Most importantly, have fun!

Setting up the table, too windy to put the banner up first thing.
My view of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from my table


1) Sell Sheet: a quick advertisement you give to bookstores or librarians to get them interested in selling your book. You can read more here.

2) Use your search engine to find “create your own…crosswords, word searches, and/or mazes”. This Teacher website is an excellent place to start.

3) I’m an Introvert. The event left me physically and mentally drained. I ended up taking an hour nap when I got home. It took me an entire day to recover. Still, I’ll do it again because it’s worth it. Just be aware you may need some recovery time.

How to Choose a Pen Name

Choosing to use a pen name can be a tough decision. Don’t think of it as losing your identity, rather gaining an extra personality. Knowing you want a pen name is only half the battle. How do you choose a pen name?

1) Narrow Down Your Genre

You should already know what genre you are writing for. If you don’t, stop everything and figure that out. Narrowing down your genre is the first step in getting to know your audience. Consider names that flow well with your chosen genre. For instance, if you write for children, think light-hearted, easy to pronounce names. Likewise, mysteryous names for the mystery writer, sexy harlot names for the romance author, and a great detective sounding name for the crime or thriller author.

2) Variations of your Own Name

If you aren’t looking to stray too far from your given name, start with some variations. Use your initials and keep the last name. Try out your middle name as first name, or first and middle. You can also do some variations of your name. My name is Michelle so I could use Mich, Elle, Chelle, Shell, Shelly, Michael, Mitchel (which I use), Mitch, and so on.

3) Name Generators

I love all the name generators found online these days. They are perfect to use when naming characters and places in my books. Why not use one to find a good pen name? Here are two you can try:

Name Generator (

Fantasy name generators. Names for all your fantasy characters.

4) Check for Popularity

If you know anything about the Actor’s Guild, no two actors can have the same name. That isn’t necessarily the case in the writing world, but it should be an unwritten rule. Your name should be as unique as the books you create. Therefore, once you narrow down a few pen names, run them through some search engines and see how many hits you get. Likewise, run the name on Amazon to see what sort of competition you would have. Ideally, you want a name that is not already taken; this will ensure you dominate any search engine as well as give you the ability to purchase the domain name.


Choosing a pen name opens a world of opportunity. Once you figure out some basic tips on how to choose a pen name, the process can be both entertaining and exciting. Who knows, perhaps you’ll come up with a few great character names in the process. Happy hunting!



Why I Use a Pen Name


When I first started creating the Magic Cube series, I hemmed and hawed over what name I would write under. I’m sure I was overly dramatic about the whole thing; I am a writer, after all; we have a flair for the dramatic. I always imagined I would write under the name I was born with and pay homage to my ancestors. The very thought of using a pen name sent a chill through me; I was horrified by the idea. How would my family feel? Would I be spitting on the very name that brought me into this world?

Then, I pulled myself together, and I remembered I was an introvert. I love hiding in the shadows. If I used a pen name, I could hide behind this extravagant persona. After taking to the internet and doing an obnoxious amount of research, I came up with a few other really great reasons to use a pen name.

1) I have a common name

Michelle Peterson is the name I was born with. Michelle is okay if I had some oddball last name, but I don’t. I have one of the 100 most common last names in the US. Then, I went and married a Miller…now I was in the top 10 most common last names.  Why is all this information on popularity important?  Search Engines.

There are millions of books out there. It’s hard to market a book, especially if thousands of people already have established web pages with your name on them. The last thing anyone wants is to get buried in the search engines. Searchability is one of the most critical aspects of building a brand and gaining publicity.

2) Building a Brand

Self-publishing includes a ton of marketing. You are essentially creating a brand around your author name. You will want to create social media accounts and build an author website.

I knew I wanted to buy a domain name and build a website. I also wanted a name unique enough to show up on the first page of any given search engine. Hardly anyone scrolls past the first page. If you aren’t there, how will anyone find you?

3) Introvert Problems

As mentioned above, I’m an introvert and horribly shy. I love talking to people and hearing their stories; I’m not so good about sharing my own. Talking about writing and publishing is terrifying to me. It is entirely out of my comfort zone. Marketing for someone else? Now, that’s something I can do.

It sounds silly, I know. I’m marketing for myself, hiding behind someone else.

What’s in a Name?

I finally decided to go with a pen name. Now came the hard part, what name to use?

The Magic Cube Chapter books are geared toward early readers. I need a name they can all pronounce and remember. Also, after reading about J.K. Rowling and why she used initials, I wanted something gender-neutral.

Mitchel Maree is born

For as long as I can remember, my grandfather always called me Mitchel. Maybe he secretly wanted more grandsons; I don’t know, but it stuck. I have a couple of uncles who use this pet name to this day.

My middle name is Marie. I messed with the spelling and ended up with a French last name.

I have been using this pen name for about a year now. When my first book came out, I felt uncomfortable telling people I wrote it under a pen name. Now, I’ve embraced the writer in me, the author I call Mitchel Maree.


I choose a pen name to build a brand, be more marketable and easy to find, and as a way to keep some anonymity.



Book Hunt in Stepaside

Several years back I lived in a tiny town called Olalla in Washington State. In that town lives a famous author, Mr. Gregg Olsen. Every year, on Christmas Eve, Gregg does a book hunt. He takes 10-20 of his books, hides them around the town, takes cryptic pictures, and posts on Facebook. Everyone loves this book hunt. We all scramble to decipher the clues and be the first to find the book.

I’ve decided to take that idea and bring it 3000 miles across the Atlantic and into my tiny town in Ireland. Everyone knows how different this year has been. Most of us are stuck at home over the holidays.  I thought it would be the perfect year to start something new.

I decided to use two of my local Facebook community groups; which I’m keeping anonymous for the sake of privacy. I messaged the admins of each group for approval to post. The group admins both loved the idea and approved

Countdown to Christmas Eve

Tuesday: Time to start advertising and getting the word on the street, so to speak. I posted my first advertisement along with a fun picture of the elves bagging up the books.

Wednesday: Time to post a friendly reminder along with another fun picture. This picture was to keep things fun and let parents know we were keeping in line with Covid-19 guidelines.

Thursday/Hunt Day

Morning: We bundled up the kids and headed out with our books and elves in tow. The kids helped figure out some great places to hide the books. We tried to make the hiding spots both simple, but not so easy random people would find the books before the hunters did.  We took photos of the elves hiding the books around town.

11:30: It took much longer than anticipated to hide all the books, walking with four kids and all. We made it back home with about 30 mins to spare. I quickly uploaded some pictures of the elves about town as well as one last reminder of the hunt started at noon.

Noon: Final post included the rules and pictures. Then it was time to take a deep breath, sit back, and wait.

Outcome: The response was amazing. I received several likes and comments on the original post Tuesday; however, simply because people like an idea doesn’t mean they will participate. As soon as I posted the 7 pictures, a horrible feeling of doubt passed through me. I had really put myself out there and I thought, for sure, I was about to crash and burn.

I should have known my wonderful community would shine! The first book was found within minutes. It took less than an hour for six books to be found. There is one more book still out there waiting to be rescued from the cold; I’ll give it a day before sending out a search party. – UPDATE – all books have been found.

Conclusion: This was a great event. Free marketing plus some fun for all during a holiday season like no other. I have already received some great feedback on the book, and hope everyone else enjoys it as well.

This is definitely something I will try to do again next year. I’m hoping to get more of the community involvement and perhaps more local authors as well. I would love for this to turn into an annual, community event.

All in all, the book hunt was a success and I’m glad I did it.


Hosting a Kids Color Competition

TLDR – Coloring contest wrap up – judging the contest and learnings (I need more followers and further reach in advertising.)

An Idea Sparks

Let me start by saying, I am not a marketing guru; not even a little. As a self-published author, I have been thrust head first into this foreign field. Now, not only am I writing books, I have to promote and market those books as well, *cue big eye roll. One day, while “working” on my website, I thought it would be a great idea to post some of the illustrations from the book, then parents could download them as coloring pages for the kids. Bam! That sparked the idea for hosting a color contest. Who doesn’t love a color contest? I didn’t have a huge budget for prizes, but it would be a great way to get some exposure for my book.

The question now was, “how do you market a coloring contest in the time of Covid-19?” It wasn’t as if I could go out and physically ask local businesses to display the contest for me. Besides, half of Ireland (where I currently live) was in partial lock-down. This contest had to be fully online, from promoting to turning in entries to prizes be awarded. Spoiler alert: thinking this would work my first mistake.

Kids are limited to what they are exposed to on the internet. In order for kids to learn about an online color contest, I had to tell their parents. I took it to social media and I advertised like crazy. My Twitter following was fairly small at the time and therefore, so was my reach. Many of my friends on Facebook either don’t have children or have children who are too old to enter. I tried two Facebook ad campaigns and although the reach and views were great, it didn’t bring in any entries.

Somehow, I ended up with 18 entries at the end of the contest. This was mostly due to my sister, a school teacher. She is reading the book to her class of 1st graders, and she told them all about the contest. Over half of my entries came from these students. Thanks, Sis!


Pros: The contest/competition was a great learning experience. I learned the power and impact of a social media following. I got a crash course in #hashtags, keywords, and SEO (search engine optimization) marketing; the result clearly stating I need more practice in all three areas. 

It also forced me to learn more about GDPR (general data protection regulation), privacy rules, and contest rules. GDPR is a European regulation in which, if you ask for personal information you must state the purpose for needing the information, how it will be used, and how it will be stored. I created a document ( contest entry rules) that ensured I was following all privacy processes as well as GDPR . I can use this as a template if I run a contest or giveaway in the future. 

Cons: I spend a lot of time advertising for this contest with little return on investment. My following on Social Media wasn’t large enough. The response wasn’t big enough. I had a few complaints from friends who didn’t have ways to print the pictures out, or it was a hassle to do so. I didn’t garner any extra sales, there wasn’t a jump in website views, and the whole ordeal ended up costing more than I earned in return.

Final outcome: I learned a lot, but at a cost. I most likely won’t do something like this again.

Judging the contest

The entries we did receive were pretty amazing. The kids put their heart and soul into coloring, which some kids going the extra mile and adding in more detail. I should considering using some of these in my book.

In order to keep the pictures anonymous while judging, the contest entries were saved to my computer with only a number beneath them. I used Excel to keep track of the names and email addresses. Here are the entries in the 5 and under category.

Five and under pictures

My judges were my four children, ages 10, 8, 6, and 4. I called them in separately, displayed the pictures on my computer screen, and let them pick their top three in both categories. The under 5s was simple as only four entries had been received. All the children picked 1st place: #5, second place: #6, and three kids picked #16 as third place, with one child picking #7. Under 5s was sorted.


6-12 year old entries

Moving on to the 6-12 age category proved more difficult. As you can see above, we had some amazing entries. Here is how each judge voted in the first round:

  • 10-year-old: 12, 18, 8
  • 8-year-old: 1, 12, 17
  • 6-year-old: 4, 9, 3
  • 4-year-old: 18, 12, 4

For round two, we picked the entries that had two or more votes. 12, 18, 4…then all kids voted again.

Round 2 came out in a tie:

  • 10 and 8 year old: 12, 18, 4
  • 6 and 4 year old: 4, 12, 18

We needed a tie-breaker and I felt it couldn’t be me, I knew too much. We brought in Dad to break the tie. The final outcome: 4, 12, 18

The Winners

We had our winners. Congratulations to everyone who entered. As you can see, choosing a winner was tough. Everyone did a fabulous job, and each picture showed fantastic creativity.

Big Congratulations to our Winners:

Under 5 winners
  • 1st Place: Gustaw, age 4
  • 2nd Place: Averi, age 4
  • 3rd Place: Halle, age 3
6-12 winners
  • 1st Place: Antoni, age 6
  • 2nd Place: Savannah, age 7
  • 3rd Place: Iolani, age 6

You can view the winner’s pictures and see all our entries here.


All in all, this whole process was a great learning experience. I know I have a lot to learn when it comes to marketing, and I feel its important to always try new things. We take the good with the bad and we learn what works and what doesn’t. I have several more ideas in this head of mine and I hope those further endeavors are more successful.

Keywords – sell books, sell books Amazon, entry form, contest rules, competition, kids contest, and online contest.

Shout-out to all my Supporters!

I ran a Kickstarter in order to promote my book and get a few pre-sales (you can read it about it here). The Kickstarter ended on Sept. 27th and thankfully we were fully funded. I can’t thank all my supporters and backers enough. It was the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have done yet, next to actually getting this book published, of course. The overwhelming outpouring of support for this project, is what gave me that final push I needed toward making this dream a reality.

I can honestly say, you may never know how many people are out there silently cheering for you; I had no idea. I never expected so many people to jump up and back this book. I wanted to take a moment to really say from the bottom of my overwhelmed, grateful heart, Thank You to every single one of my Kickstarter supporters.

Corei Bean; Kari and Thomas Bosley; Adam Hitchcock; Brenda Kelso, Julian Kelso, and Izaak King II; Brad, Theresa, and Bryce Alford; Wendy and Bruce Peterson; David “Fish Fillet” Blackwell; Ryan, Shelly, Emily, and Grace La Vergne; Jim Terryberry; Team PhillFam; Michael and Vanessa Patrick; Sean Byrne; Sean Robbins; Kara VanWinkle; The Reesmans; Mikey Jensen; Jessica and Zach Peterson; Darcy Jayne; Eunice Hammerstrom; Brian and Lisa Peterson; Samantha Nixon; Lanette and Amber Allen; Justin and Marti Thomas; and all the other backers who wish to remain anonymous.

Along with my Kickstarter supports, I have had amazing response from my book release. It seems everyday I find messages from one or two friends saying they bought my book or received their book in the mail. I never thought so many people would go out of their way to buy this book. It has been surreal to be a part of this experience.

When I first decided to publish this book, I laughed a bit thinking maybe I would sell 10 copies, if my mom bought 5 that is, lol. Much to my surprise I have sold a little over 100 copies! That’s more than I could have dreamed for a first release, self-published author. I have done all my own marketing and spent countless hours promoting on social media. I have spent so much time on research and learned a lot through this self-publishing process. I am grateful for every minute, but excited to get back to actual writing.

To say I am blown away doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. Honestly, when I started this journey back in July, I was embarrassed to admit I was writing a book. I’ve always been shy when it comes to admitting I write books, I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been more forthcoming and honest about what I do all day. Everyone who has bought and liked the book, gives me the courage to come out of hiding and show the world what I am capable off. I have a lot of self-doubt, but I’m working on getting over that.

I need to take this moment to tell everyone who has supported this book in any way, from the Kickstarter to simply buying the book, Thank You. I may never sell thousands of books, but for me this has been an amazing success.

Buy Here

Creating a Signature

One of my Kickstarter rewards is a signed copy of my book. I was so excited when I received my copies of the book, I could hardly wait to start signing and sending them out. As I sat down at my desk, the box of books next to me my pen at the ready, I opened the book and had a mini panic attack. How do I sign these? Should I say something or just put my signature? What page do I sign? What pen do I use? I’ve never signed with this pen name before! Ahhhh!

Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe this whole self-publishing process, and now I have one more thing to add to the list. I honestly thought signing a bunch of books would be the easy part. Side note: I have this thought a lot, thinking something will be easy and then it turns out to be overly complex. As with almost everything else in this process, I took to the internet. I have a few writing groups where I can ask my questions and gain clarity. After scouring these groups and researching the entirety of the internet (that’s what it felt like at least), I came up with a plan.

First of all, I use a pen name (read more here) which means I basically have a completely different persona. My actual signature is pretty horrific, and my handwriting can barely pass for chicken scratch. Now is my chance to right all those wrongs. I get to craft an entirely new, somewhat fancy, signature; I don’t foresee any massive fame where I’ll need to sign 10 million copies or anything, so I can afford to get creative.

I’ve noted several authors like to add a little quote or saying to their signature as well. Back to the internet I go to find some fun, simple quotes. Here are a few I like:

“Follow Your Dreams”

“Kindness Matters”

“Dream Big”

“Every Moment Matters”

“Carpe Diem”

“Believe in Yourself”

I decided to go with “Dream Big” for two reasons. One, I’m writing books for middle-grade kids and I think it’s a great inspirational quote. Two, this book is my dream come true and I have always had big dreams. One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Dream with your eyes wide open,” but that is too long to write 50 times. Keep it short and sweet when book signing is in play.

Now that I have a quote, time to figure out what sort of signature I can create that will be relatively easy to duplicate over the course of my writing career. First, I simply grabbed some paper and signed my name. First off, I seem to have forgotten how to write in cursive. How do you do an “r” and an “a” for that matter; I haven’t used these letters since grade school. I really needed to brush up on this.

I took to Word to see what sort of fonts I could replicate or at least use as a jumping off point. Here are a few I liked:


I printed those fonts out and played around with my own various. I found I have to slow down and concentrate on each letter, otherwise I end up missing one or two letters or adding letters.  Here are all my practice signatures as well as practice writing some quotes:


The signature I liked the most turned out to be the most difficult “M” to write, as it wasn’t quite natural for me. However, after a few practice rounds it’s not too shabby. My handwriting is far from “pretty” and this signature would not fall under the “fancy” heading to most people, but you must work with what you have. Here is what my final signature looks like, and I’m sure it will improve over time.

At the moment, the signature is very clean, but I believe, given time, it will become as messy as my everyday signature.  After signing a few books, I’ve already messed up a few times by forgetting a letter, usually the “t” or changing the style mid-way through. I know it’s going to take time and practice to sign seamlessly. I’ll most likely have to relearn every time I release a book.

Now, the long task of signing my stack of books. One more thing to cross off my never-ending list of things to do for this book. I’m grateful for the opportunity and glad to share my experience. This has been overwhelming, to say the least, but watching a dream become a reality is an amazing thing.    


My Writing Process




People are often curious about what an author’s writing process looks like. Every author has their own style and their own process for completing a novel. Below, I list out what my typical writing process looks like.  


My ideas come from everywhere. It may start with something I read or watch, and wonder would happen if they made a different choice. It could start with a simple idea such as writing a story about Christmas or about fairies. My current work in progress all started with a Fairy Door; I wanted the Watson children to go through a fairy door. I crafted my story around that idea.

Whatever the idea may be, it is normally a short thought or sentence that I build a story around. “What if the elves tried to ruin Christmas?” or “What if the kids turned into fairies?”



I don’t do outlines. I tried it once and ended up changing the entire book halfway through, making the original outline a waste of time. I consider my first draft the outline of the book.


First Draft:

I start with my premise and idea and I write. I write books straight through, beginning to end. I let the book unfold as I’m writing. I know who my main character(s) will be, and I keep a running list as new characters are created. These characters tend to reveal themselves as the story progresses. For the most part, I’m never exactly positive where the story is going to go or even how its going to end.

I love this process because I can honestly say I have no idea where the story will end up. I am often surprised at some of the twists and turns my stories end up taking. Its as if I’m on my own journey and I, mostly, enjoy it. I wrote a rough draft of a suspense/murder mystery book many years ago; at the time of writing it I had no idea who the murderer would be. The reveal came to me near the climax of the book and I knew who it had to be and why.

There are times when a story isn’t quite coming together for me. I may not like where its headed, I may be stuck on a certain part, or I just can’t get into a certain character’s head. I try to power though and just keep writing, but sometimes I must put a pin in it. If I really get stuck, I walk away from the book for a while. Sometimes, I put the book away for a long time and work on something completely different.

I really struggled with my current book about the fairy door. The story wasn’t flowing the way I wanted it to, and while I had written some good stuff I was stuck at where to go next. I had to shelf it and move to other things. Then, out of nowhere I had an idea that turned the book around. I can’t go into much detail or I’ll give too much away right, but I’ll revisit this later.

The main goal of the first draft is to write and keep writing until the story is done. This will be my incredibly detailed outline and from here I have something solid to work with.


Second Draft:

Once the first draft is done, I let it sit. Sometimes as little as one week, and sometimes as much as one month. Then, I rewrite the entire thing. I use the first draft as my guide, copying the parts I like and reworking the rest. I start this in a brand-new document as if I’m writing for the first time.

After this draft, the story is usually much better and with more detail. Everything flows together well and the parts I may have skimmed through, just to get it written, are fixed. At this point, I’m happy with the story and, if for any reason, I feel the story needs work I do this entire process again until I’m satisfied.


First Edit:

Now, this is when things start to get interesting. The first edit is me reading through the draft and make changes. I correct spelling and grammar errors and make sure the story flows well. During this phase, I like to hide in my office with the door closed because I have to read out loud to hear how it sounds. Once I make changes and I’m happy with the story; it’s time to send it out.


Outside Editing:

Next, I send my story to two of my faithful critics. They read through the story, point out plot holes, suggest word upgrades, help with sentence structure, and give their overall opinions. Of course, they check for spelling and grammar as well. I have two people I use, family/friends so it doesn’t cost me anything but a few hits to the pride.


Second Edit:

Once I have my two manuscripts with edits back, I go through them. I put on my thick skin and read through the suggestions. This is the hardest part for me. This is where the constructive criticism takes place and I have to take it all with a grain of salt. After the initial zing, I can see how changing parts of the story only make it better. With each edit and each book I write, I know my writing improves.


I read through all the edits, most of which I accept, but there are a few suggestions I don’t use. I know how I want the story to go and I know my characters well; some suggestions don’t mesh well with either of those things. However, I take all suggestions to heart and think them through. Normally, I find some sentences or paragraphs that need to be reworked based on edits, which I will highlight and take notes for the next edit.


Third Edit:

After making suggested edits, I go back and read through the book again. At this point, I work on the areas I highlighted and aim to tighten up the story.

At this point, I am also looking at chapter length, meaning word count. I am currently writing lower middle grade chapter books and they like consistency. They want to know each chapter will be roughly the same length. I have found ten pages per chapter is a good goal; this is ten pages in the completed book not in the Word document. For me, this is roughly 1050 words per chapter give or take: no less than 1020 and no more than 1080.

Getting these numbers to work can be, well, work. Not to mention I’m also looking at my final word count, which for my particular genre is around 10K total words. It can be a chore to get these numbers where I want them to be. It often means a lot of chopping huge chunks of the book. If a sentence or paragraph doesn’t move the story forward, then it must go.


2nd Outside Edit:

Once I’m satisfied with the story, it’s time for a professional copy edit. This is where I pay someone to read my book, make changes, correct spelling and grammar, check for inconsistencies, and help make sure the story really works.

Again, this is where I put my ego on the shelf and prepare myself for the “red ink” return. This constructive criticism can be a bit tougher because I am paying someone to be bluntly honest. I remind myself this is all to make the story better.


Final edits:

Once I receive the manuscript back from the editor, it’s time to get serious. I review all the suggestions and make the necessary changes. Then, I read through the book as many times as it takes until I’m satisfied with the finished product.


From here, I move on to preparing the book for publication, which I will discuss in an upcoming blog series on Self-publishing. This is my basic writing process from idea to final draft.



Creating the Story (Mystery of the Cursed Elves)

Readers are often interested in where a story idea comes from. For me, inspiration comes, most often, from normal everyday life. The Mystery of the Curse Elves came from a simple premise.

It all started when out shopping in November (2018). The kids and I came across some red and black elves at our local discount store. I’ve never been huge on the whole moving an elf around in December; however, having a few “naughty/bad” elves piqued my interest.  So, for a season, the black and grey elves tormented our red elves, much to the children’s delight. I didn’t do this everyday because random attacks are much more fun and spontaneous. Here are some fun examples:



One day while walking to the park, the kids and I started talking about what would happen if the “real” elves went bad and started doing pranks in the North Pole. Those conversations are what led to the spark of an idea.

I have never written a book geared toward children. I’ve always dabbled in the world of adult mystery, suspense, and some romance; never thinking I would write for kids. Now that I have kids, I thought it would be fun to write a few books just for them. In a crazy twist of fate, we were asked to temporarily leave the country while our residence card was sorted out. (You can read all about that here). We packed our bags and traveled to Spain for what we were calling “Winter Exile”. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Spain is warm in the winter so we spent a lot of time outside playing at parks or on the beach. I got this crazy idea that I would write this elf story the kids and I had talked about.


(Here is me writing, sort of)


Why not? I had lots of time on my hands. I could write a chapter while the kids played and read it to them at night. Everyone wins. At the end of each night, I asked the kids what should happen next and through all the ideas; I ended up with a really long book. (spoiler: I cut out about half the book in the final edit).

Upon our return to Ireland, I spent the next year ignoring that book. In December 2019, we went back to Spain for the holidays and I was inspired to revisit the book. Once back home, I made it my New Year’s resolution to finish this book.  I now had all the kids in school for a couple hours a day. It was time to stop making excuses and start writing. Finally, I finish writing the book.

Then, Corona (COVID-19) came to town, we all got locked down, and I became a schoolteacher. No more free writing days for me. However, about two months into lock-down, when the long hours of pulling one’s hairs out began, my husband decided we were going to publish this book. He gave me the time I needed, taking the kids to the park or on long walks, while I pounded away at the keyboard.

By July, I finally finished the manuscript and send it to my editors. What an accomplishment. I was so high up on my horse; what a great feeling. Of course, then came the prospect of publishing the book, to which we decided to self-publish. I crashed off that horse real fast. Self-publishing is no picnic, in fact, I’m going to do an entire blog series dedicated to self-publishing.

For now, I am proud to say after a few years of working toward this goal I have officially, almost, published a book. It will be released on October 15th and I couldn’t be happier about it. Now, I need to go move some elves around (its never too early).