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Shipping Books from Home – Tips to Alleviate Postal Headaches

Shipping books from home: avoiding the headaches at the post office

Many authors have a love-hate relationship with shipping books from home. They love getting the instant income, they hate trekking to the post office, waiting in line, having to painstakingly write out all the different addresses. But you can have your cake and eat it too–just set up an in-home mailing system. In many cases, your postal carrier might be able to pluck the envelopes out of your mailbox, saving you time and stress. To get started shipping books from home, check out our five things you absolutely need:

Boxes and Padded Envelopes

When you ship books from home, it can feel like Oprah giving away carsThis one goes without saying. You can buy shipping material in bulk from Amazon, which will make those big shipments a breeze. We like to keep a variety on hand, including padded mailers for paperbacks and slightly larger ones for hardcovers, and boxes for bigger shipments. Make sure you grab some good, strong tape, too.

Take stock of the size of your books (height, width, spine), then calculate how big your shipping materials should be. Here are the sizes we use for our 6×9 books:

(Note: While there are boxes that  measure 6×9, we’ve found they’re almost a little too tight for your books. Better to size up an inch or two)

Postal Weigher

Media Mail is the cheapest shipping option for books, but you’ll need to know the weight of your package. You can buy a postal weigher from Amazon for about $16. Make sure you get a big enough one to handle those larger shipments, as books run about 1-1.5lb each.

Account to Purchase Postage

When you sell books from your website, you make more money. Find out our best tips for shipping books from homeDepending on how you’ve set up your online store, you might be able to do everything without having to access PayPal. WooCommerce for WordPress lets you do it all-in-one, provided you give them a credit card. We prefer the security of PayPal, and can access our customers’ shipping information fairly easily. There, it’s one-two-three clicks to having a perfectly sized label for US Orders.

However, we noticed a price discrepancy on PayPal vs USPS for international orders. To prevent those $25-$50 shipments from coming back, we go direct to the source.

Peel and Stick Labels

You can print off your labels on regular paper, but it’s much easier to use Peel and Stick Labels, already custom formatted for PayPal or USPS. Then it’s as easy as, well, peel and stick!

Swag and Add-Ins

One of the benefits from buying directly from the author is that the author can add additional swag into the bag. Maybe a bookmark with a coupon for free shipping, or a rubber bracelet with your website on it. Your customer will enjoy the extra stuff!

But above all else, don’t forget to sign it!

Things you need to know when shipping books from home


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Your Author Brand – Your Reputation on the Internet

Your author brand is your reputation on the internet

For many authors, the idea of a “brand” is one that they are vehemently against. They think a brand is something manufactured and fake. They want to be authentic. But the truth is, your author brand will emerge regardless. The key is to make that brand a positive one, which will eventually result in more sales.

What is an Author Brand

Your author brand tells people what to expect from you.Generally, you can consider your author brand to be the amalgamation of the different content you present on the internet. You can have a different brand per social media, or have a singular one across all of them. For example, if all you post on Instagram are cat photos, your Instagram brand is just that: Cat photos.

Why does that matter? Because if you suddenly take your feline-focused timeline and turn it into one selling your horror novel, you might find yourself losing followers left and right. More importantly: You may not sell any books.

Taking it another way, your brand tells people what to expect from you. It helps build that all-important trust necessary for soft selling. Building your online persona focused on a certain theme helps attract potential readers of your genre.

Build a Brand Workshop

Multi-million dollar corporations have teams assigned to brand image and management. You, self- or indie- author, have just yourself. So you’re free to take it as detailed as you like.

Start by asking yourself, “What do I want people to think of when they see my name on social media?” Start at the ten thousand foot view:

  • Do I want to provide readers with information about a certain topic?
  • What are the main themes of my book(s)?
  • What genres do I write in, and what are other authors in that genre doing?

Once you have the answers to those questions, you can start digging deeper. Once you’ve got a general idea of the person you want to be on the internet, you can decide what kind of content you should be posting. For example: if you want to be known as an author who helps other indie authors, post indie knowledge anecdotes. If you want to be fantasy writer, you should follow nerd and geek sites like io9, so you have plenty of content to share to fellow nerds.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be more or less consistent. And, of course, if you find yourself veering away from what you thought your brand was, feel free to change it! After all, it’s your brand.

Social Media Etiquette

When it comes to your brand, how you behave is just as important as what you schedule. Every fan response, every reply builds your readers’ idea of you. So, obviously, you want to make sure that perception is a positive one.

It goes without saying: Never respond to negative reviews. Ever.

Even if you think you’re right, even if you think the reviewer is targeting you unfairly. Or if they got the book wrong. Even if you do it privately, because there’s no guarantee the reviewer won’t respond by screencapping your email and posting it for the world to see. Take a breath, write your response in an offline journal, and move on.

When it comes to ruining brand over bad sales, this is a bit more nuanced. Generally, people flock to two kinds of folks: those who are upbeat and positive, and those who cause lots of excitement by drumming up controversy. It’s why we love reality TV.

What people don’t love is when an author gets online and says, “Woe is me. Nobody buys my books. I guess I’ll just hang up my hat and stop writing.” You’ll get a few well-wishers, and maybe a pity sale, but what you’re doing is alienating the readers you do have. Instead, focus on giving yourself opportunities to highlight the positives. Run a sale on your books and post when it hits a high water mark.

This isn’t to say, “don’t be human.” If you’re having a bad day, share it with your followers if you feel it’s appropriate. One of our favorite tried-and-true methods for turning a frown upside-down is our “Bad Day Giveaway” where when we have a bad day, we’ll run a quick Twitter contest and give away a free eBook. We also like, “Tell us something great that happened to you.” It gets our fans talking, and brightens our own mood.

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SEO: How Small Changes Drive More Clicks

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is all about maximizing your Google search rankings

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is exactly what it sounds like: ways to make your content more discoverable (optimized) for search engines (Google). Once you get the hang of keywords and phrases, and with the right tools, making your website content SEO-ready becomes second nature.

SEO: The Basics

When we talk about Search Engine Optimization, what we’re really talking about are web pages, blogs, photos, anything that might come up on a web search. Google, the behemoth search engine most people use, has a set of rules that they use to rank and file search results (much like we discussed a few weeks ago with the Amazon Algorithm). That’s why when you search for the same term in Google and, say, Bing, you’ll come up with somewhat different results.

SEO helps users find your content organically, instead of through social media or paid adsWe want to utilize SEO when we want new users to discover our content outside of our existing reach. Basically: instead of tweeting a link to your blog or paying for an ad, a user finds your content organically. (Ideally, they would then take some purchasing action.) Ranking high in Google also helps maximize your advertising budget. After all, if a user hears your name on the local news, they’ll probably go to Google to find out more, right?

For the purposes of this blog, we’re breaking the SEO discussion for authors into two areas. First, we’re talking about the basic, static author webpage content. Then, we’ll dive into how to make individual blog posts stand out.

The number one thing to remember about SEO is that it’s based on quality content and keywords. You can have a super keyword-dense blog post, but if it’s unreadable or unhelpful, it won’t rank. Likewise, if the keyword or topic is obscure, you can be sure not to find a large audience.

Author Website SEO

For your website, the idea is that you and your content should be the very first thing that pops up when a user searches for your author name. You don’t want users searching for you and getting sidetracked on a different website! For authors with unique names (like our alter-ego, S. Usher Evans) this relatively easy. For authors with a bit more common of a name, this can be a little difficult.

Good SEO is based on quality content, unique keywords, and frequently updated information.To make sure your author content is as findable as possible, make use of Google’s webmaster tools. These tools will help make sure your website is showing up as it should on Google’s search results. You can also see which queries are leading people to your site, check to make sure there are no crawling errors, and more. Another great way to make sure your stuff shows up is to utilize Google Plus when you post. It should come as no surprise that Google wants you to use their proprietary social network.

Blog SEO

When it comes to individual blog posts, the goal isn’t necessarily to be number one, but to make it onto the first page of Google. For this (also applicable to above), we use keywords. Keywords are exactly that – a phrase or term used to describe the general content for the page. When a user searches for that keyword, they will happen upon your page.

Obviously, not every blog post is going to have a golden keyword that brings in thousands site visitors. For blog posts like this one, which are intended to educate and share information, a keyword is easy. For blog posts about books, like when our alter-ego writes promotional blogs about her books or when she’s writing a more personal essay, it’s more about the content.

Yoast SEO offers a great WordPress plugin that tracks SEO as you type. It catches things like sentence length, keyword density, and even if the keyword is found in the URL of the blog post itself. We find it to be maddeningly addicting to get all greens.

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Best WordPress Plugins for Authors

Our best Wordpress plugins for authors

Last week, we talked a little bit about author websites, and what you should put on them. This week, we’re going to spend a little bit of time in the “back-end;” that is, the stuff that you put on your website to make it pretty. This post will primarily focus on WordPress self-hosted websites and the plug-ins that we love. As always, if you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers!

What is a Plug-In?

See our best wordpress plugins for authors, ready-to-use bits of code that add functionalityWhen we talk about WordPress, we’re talking about, not (don’t know the difference? Check this out). WordPress itself is a highly customizable solution that can be modified through code. But for those of us who don’t have the time/energy to come up with our own customizations, an army of developers have come to the rescue with a plug-in for literally anything you could possibly want.

In a nutshell:

A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress.

Source: WP Beginner

Here are some examples of plug-ins that we use here at SGR-P:

  • Yoast SEO: Helps us manage our search engine optimization on pages, posts, and more.
  • Downloads: Manages our review copies so we can deliver them to our army of reviewers
  • WooCommerce: Supports the eCommerce part of SGR-P with integration to Paypal
  • MetaSlider: Adds that pretty slider on the front page of the website

We also have plug-ins to speed up load time, replace images after they’ve been uploaded, and to add a custom profile photo to our SGR-P presence. So you, see, there really is a plug-in for everyone

Best Plugins for Authors

We’ve compiled our favorite plug-ins for authors below. This isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. Like most plugins, these are free to use.

Yoast SEO

Our best WordPress plugins for authors include book management and SEO helpWe mentioned this one above–and yes, we heavily utilize it on both and Search Engine Optimization is “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” In other words, if someone searches for something, the likelihood they’ll end up on your page vs someone else.

Yoast is a great tool to help make sure the words on the page (and associated images, headers, and links) help move your stuff higher on Google’s search results. They give you two scores: how easy-to-read your content is and your SEO score. The more green you have, the better you are!

Why is this helpful to authors: Because you want your content to be at the forefront of every Google search of your name.

MooBerry Book Manager

This is a lesser-known plugin, but it’s still one of our favorites. This plugin creates a new “content type” on your website (called “books”) where you can add everything about a particular book: series, links to every bookstore imaginable, links to download for free, places for editorial reviews, etc. It’s super easy-to-use and the organization works great.


This is a plugin that integrates with your Mailchimp newsletter which makes it easy to get signups on your website. Email marketing is something we’ll cover in a future blog post, but suffice to say, it’s another tool in your marketing arsenal. Having an easy-to-use sign up form on your website is crucial, and this plug-in makes it simple.

Word of caution: We’d recommend not having a pop-up newsletter subscriber box on your website. While it might get you some subscribers, you’ll lose more in people leaving your page because they ignored you.

Monster Insights

If you’re like us and you like keeping track of your site visitors and other analytics, then using Google Analytics is probably already in your arsenal. We like the ease of the Monster Insights plugin to add the tracking number, monitor activity, and more.


So we’re cheating a little on this one. The CoSchedule plugin is free, but the service itself is not (and it’s pretty pricey). However, it’s one of the better tools we’ve come across to schedule and manage a whole lot of content across a whole lot of different social media.

For busy authors with a lot of stuff to promote, the tool is a lifesaver. You can set up templates for recurring activities (such as promoting blog posts) and the auto-scheduling and calendar tools help you visualize your messaging in real time. We use it for both SGR-P and S. Usher Evans blogs, for event promotion (like our Twitter chats), book blitzes, and more.

Do you have a favorite plugin? Tell us in the comments!

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Author Website: Your Home On the Interwebs

Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked a lot about getting your book set up on different stores, formatting, and ways to help maximize your visibility. Today, we’ll be sharing some author website tips, and the best ways to maximize your visibility outside of eBookstores.

Your Address

You know Shakespeare never had to worry if was already taken, but today’s authors should act quickly to claim their domain name. If you’ve decided to go with a penname, that makes it a little easier: simply pick a penname that doesn’t have an active site associated with it. If you’re going with your own name, then that might present additional issues.

The important thing is to have a dedicated URL for your author site, whether it’s or or Why? Because it gives a level of legitimacy that doesn’t. Unless you’re George R.R. Martin who famously uses LiveJournal to communicate with his fans, you’ll want to make sure you purchase a domain.

Need some tips on domains or any of the technical stuff discussed in this blog? We can help! See our form at the bottom of the page.

WordPress vs. Blogger vs. Wix vs. ?

Once you’ve got a domain, the next step is to set up your hosting provider. What does that mean exactly? Think of your author website as a folder. In order to display images and content, you need a folder to stick it in and you’ll need to pay someone to host that folder on the internet.

For some services, like Wix, Blogger, and SquareSpace, the hosting is bundled in when you get the service. But along with that comes limitations on customizations.

For our money, we like to use WordPress (note: is not the same as Using WordPress means we have to pay for a hosting provider (we use BlueHost) and install the website ourselves. But we also have access to a vast array of plug-ins that do pretty much anything we need. We’ll talk more next week about our favorite WordPress Plug-ins for authors.

Home Page

Once you’ve got your website set up, it’s time to focus on what it’s going to say. Think of your author website homepage as the first impression for readers. There are various theories on what a home page should contain, but you should absolutely make sure it’s search engine optimized (SEO). We’ll have a later blog on what that means.

Site visitors should have easy access to your book pages (more in a bit), social media links, email, and newsletter sign-up form. Speaking of newsletters, don’t be one of those people who block your author website homepage with an annoying sign-up screen. You’ll lose more readers than gain subscribers.

You should also take care how quickly your site takes to load. Optimize images (that is, make them as small as possible) and avoid using background images, video, and music.

Content is King

A pretty site with no useful information is less appealing than an ugly site that helps users get to where they want to go. Obviously, your goal is to strike a balance of pretty and functional. But if you have no content, then your site will languish.

At a minimum, you should have pages dedicated to your published (and forthcoming) books, complete with links to every store they’re available on. MooBerry Book Manager has a great WordPress plug-in for this.

You should also have pages for your biography, complete with your head shot and social media links, as well as appearances and news.

A blog is also highly recommended. We’ll talk more about our favorite blogging tips in a future post.

Website Maintenance

After you’ve got your site up and running, it’s important to do routine checks to make sure it’s still running smoothly. This is especially important for new releases, where you’ll need to change “available for preorder” to “available for sale.” This is also a great opportunity to check all your social media and contact links, too.

Your author website is your home on the internet. Use these tips to make the most of it.


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