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!



Newsletter and Free Novella

Recently I started a newsletter. The goal is for the newsletter to be informative, and contain some exclusive material, while not being overly annoying and flooding your inbox.

I like to share things such as: artwork for upcoming books, chapter excerpts, cover reveals, as well as a summary of things I’m working on. It’s a way to keep readers up to date on current and upcoming projects. It’s as if I’m bringing you along on the journey from the first draft through publication.

This month I released an exclusive Prequel to the Magic Cube series. This novella introduces us to the Magic Cube. The free PDF download. can stand on its own; you don’t have to read other books in the series for this one to make sense.  You can read the first chapter here.

I would like to share a sample of what a typical newsletter looks like. Below is a copy of the April 2021 issue: – April 2021 NewsletterIf you are interested in subscribing and receiving your free PDF of,  Adventure Under the Sea, sign up for the newsletter today.

Click Here to sign up for the newsletter

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.

Trying a Kickstarter Campaign

I’m a writer, and I love to write. I am not good at marketing, and I am certainly not good at selling myself or my work. It’s not that I don’t like my writing, I just lack the confidence that other people will find my stories as enjoyable as I do.

Breaking out of my comfort zone and the nice, warm, cocoon of my introverted world, I have decided to make a Kickstarter Campaign. My sole purpose for the Kickstarter is to gain a following and generate interest in my upcoming book. This is my first attempt at publishing and, although selling a load of books and making the NYT bestselling list would be amazing, I just want people to read and enjoy my books.

I really didn’t think the Kickstarter would do much for me. Again, it’s not that I have low self-esteem, but I am a realist. There are millions of books out there, what makes me think I’m worth someone’s time? Now that might sound like a “poor me” statement, but in all honesty, that is just me being realistic.

Truthfully, there is a certain amount of self-doubt that comes with writing. Am I good enough? Is this crap? Do my beta readers feel obligated to tell me its good, or is it actually good? These are questions I ask myself, and only myself. I’m not seeking validation, but I try to be realistic.

I’m not very good at asking for help, and I’m not a fan of the limelight, so this Kickstarter campaign is huge for me. This whole process has been an enormous step out of my comfort zone, but if I can get readers and followers who enjoy my books, then it is well worth it.

Artwork for my upcoming book

In just a few hours after posting the link to my Kickstarter, I had supporters and was almost 50% funded by the end of the day. Friends and family, mostly via Facebook, were supporting me and sharing the link with others. I can’t even begin to explain how emotional that was for me. Overwhelming, heartwarming, ego-boosting, and literally bringing me to tears. I honestly thought I would only have a couple backers, thanks Mom 😊, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who chose to believe in me. The response was astonishing. It’s hard for this writer to put it into words.

For years, I’ve been plugging away at different stories whenever I have a free moment. I’ve been writing in one way or another since I was in the second grade, that’s when I wrote my first one-page story about deers (that’s how I spelled it). I never thought anyone really cared one way or the other about my writing, thinking it was merely a silly hobby I often talked about. This Kickstarter really showed that people do care and that they are willing to stand behind me and support my endeavor without ever having read my work. That’s huge and so appreciated.

I think, despite the Kickstarter outcome, I will have accomplished at least two things. 1) I’ve gained interest in my writing and in my upcoming book. 2) I’ve gain self-confidence that people out there believe in my writing, and they are eager to read my books. Those two things make me feel accomplished.

I hope we can reach our goal, but if not, I’ve learned something. There are those out there who will support me, somewhat blindly, and believe in me no matter what. At the end of the day, I can really be proud of myself for that.

You can check out my Kickstarter Campaign here: Kickstarter

(all artwork created by our illustrator Ola )

Should I Use a Pen Name?


One of the top questions budding authors want to know is if they should use a pen name or their actual name. What are the main reasons for using a pen name?

A brief history lesson: Back in the day, or many moons ago, or whatever phrase you like to use when referencing a time long ago, women weren’t “allowed” to write for profit. Therefore, women, being the intelligent humans they are, wrote under male names and made millions. Well, maybe not millions but at least they were able to get their work published and read.

Fast forward to today, and pen names are not as necessary as they once were. So, why do people choose a pen name at all?

1) Common Names

My given name is Michelle (Peterson) Miller. A very common name. We’ve all done a Google search on ourselves…haven’t we? My name brings up pages and pages and still more pages of sites.

New authors face an uphill battle from day one, attempting to get their books in front of readers. If readers can’t find you, how will they know what a fantastic product you have for them?

I knew I wanted to be easy to find, and therefore, a new name was essential.

2) Hard to Pronounce Names

I think my name is pretty simple, Michelle. Still, I can’t tell you how many times I get called ‘Melissa’ or ‘Miranda’ or some other girl name that starts with ‘M.’ I can only imagine life with a more complex name.

Again, new authors face a difficult challenge. We work hard to get our books in front of readers. In turn, we hope our readers not only enjoy our books but recommend them to their friends and family. If your name is too hard to pronounce, those recommendations can get lost in translation, so to speak. “Oh, I read this great book. What was that author’s name? It was something different, Rosalusamontogin, or something like that.”

It’s something to think about when writing your first book. If people can’t remember your name, they may not recommend you or look to find more information about you.

3) Sexism and Racism

I hate to go here, but unfortunately, sexism and racism run deep in the book world. I am part of many author and reader groups; and shudder at some of the things people say. “I never read female crime writers; they don’t know that world.” “Men can never write romance correctly.” “I won’t buy a book by an (ethnic group) author; they aren’t writing for me.”

Writing is a very male-dominated business, believe it or not. There is a reason J.K. Rowlings used initials instead of her first name (hint: it made her gender-neutral). She then chooses a male pen name (Richard Gilbreath) when she moved to suspense/thriller books. Several other famous authors have done the same (Looking at you Nora Roberts/ J.D. Robb). You can read about J.K. Rowlings pen name here.

In Romance, the roles are flipped. Many men will choose a female name to gain recognition in this area. I went the J.K. Rowlings route and chose Mitchel.

4) Writing in different genres

Some writers love to bounce from genre to genre. I get it; if you have a story to tell, don’t let the boundaries of genre stop you. Keep in mind, if you create a following in Romance and then jump to Horror, you may lose part of your audience.  Likewise, if you get your start writing children’s books and switch to romance, there may be a few angry parents.

5) Anonymity

Perhaps you are writing more as a hobby. You want to test the waters, see if you can finish a book, try to publish on your own, and you just aren’t ready to share this part of your world with anyone. Some people simply want to keep their private lives separate from their public author persona. It can be fun to play an author role and hang that hat at the end of a busy day.


There are many reasons why someone may want to use a pen name. The question remains, Should I use a pen name? The only person who can answer that question is you. At the end of the day, it’s up to you.