How to find copyright-free images for your posts

This great shot is from

This great shot is from

A blog post that includes an image is far likely to be read than a post without one. But you need to make sure your image is copyright-free. It’s not okay to just take a photo from the Internet.

Here are some tips on getting great, copyright-free images.

  • There are some great, copyright-free stock photo sites. This Entrepreneur article lists 14 of them. For instance, Unsplash has gorgeous landscapes you can use for free. (Note, you must add a photo credit.) And my faves, Picjumbo, which includes photos of food and Pixabay are both searchable and don’t require attribution for most photos. Just be careful you don’t accidentally use a photo that costs money—for instance, Getty images. (Sometimes those images will come up in a search, even on a free site.)
  • Use Google. Put in your key words and click Images. Then click Tools and select “Useage rights.” Choose “Labeled for reuse.” You’ll only get images that are copyright free. (Of course, always click through and check the rights out thoroughly.)
  • Take one yourself. Cameras on phones take some pretty decent shots. Don’t be afraid to get a bit artsy. My photographer friend’s advice for taking a great shot with a phone is: “get low.”

What’s your favourite method of getting great, copyright-free images for your blog posts? Let us know in the comments, below.


Author blog tours: tips

An author blog tour is just like a real-life tour, except instead of visiting libraries and book clubs in person, the author stops in on various blogs, by writing posts. Here are a few tips:

  • Laptop computer with colored booksIt seems obvious, but find blogs that are relevant to your book. Think about all the topic areas in your book, as well as the book blogs you like.
  • Offer them something—like a book giveaway for their readers.
  • Ask them how they’d like you to structure the post. If they don’t have a suggestion, here are some ideas:
    -Proust questionnaire (not all of it—five questions will do)
    -Book recommendations in the genre. (For instance, I wrote a baseball novel, so I might recommend great kids’ baseball or sports books).
    -Answer five writing-related questions about something interesting that happened when you researched or wrote your book.
    -Pick one issue that’s important to you—and relevant to your book—and write a few paragraphs exploring it. (For a baseball book, you might talk about the proposed “intentional walk” rule.)
  • Don’t tell people “buy my book” in the post. That’s an ad, not a blog post. Just having an article (and credits/links) on the blog will take people back to your book and author website.
  • Think about the specific blog you’re writing for and who their readers are, and write with them in mind.
  • Give them a great image to go with your article. Don’t make the blogger search for one—or worse, let your article be posted without one.
  • Include a short, informative bio with links and, if possible, a photo of your book.
  • Social media the heck out of your post. That will help you and the blogger.

Do you have questions about author blog tours? Ask them here in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Instagramming a story #Bookstagram

mermaid-carla-carusoCarla Caruso came up with a very cool way to tell her mermaid romance story, that activated audiences on Facebook and Instagram.

Caruso’s Mermadelaide social media treatment came to her when she was the Digital Writer in Residence at the SA Writers Centre in Australia.

She achieved excellent results in just six weeks (the length of the residency): 265 fans on Facebook (with one post reaching 754 people), 101 Instagram followers and a “top tweet” garnering 1,278 impressions.

Check out her project here on the SA Writers website.
Here’s Mermadelaide on Facebook.
Here’s Mermadelaide on Instagram.

Do you think one of your stories would lend itself to a social network? Tell us about it in the comments!

Authors and Drag Queens

This is the third and final part of a series looking at the “theory of marketing your book” vs. what “actually happened.”

In other words: Here’s what the marketing theory said to do–but how’d it go?
Check out Part I here. And Part II here.

PRIDE: Authors and Drag Queens

My book event was put on by Pride Toronto and Glad Day Bookshop, and held at Yorkville Public Library in Toronto.

It was titled “Authors and Drag Queens” and frankly, I had no idea what age the audience would be, or how I would hold my own in the midst of what I knew would be some “big personalities.” (And I ain’t talking about the authors.)

It was marketed by Glad Day as “Family Story Time.” There was no age specified, so we knew it could be kids from toddler on up. My book is middle-grade. (Tagged Out is about a baseball team that has to decide whether to “accept” their new player, who is gay.)

Yorkville Public Library PRIDEI got there about an hour early, to check out the library. It was bedecked in Pride colours, which sets a nice tone for the whole event because you know that behind those pillars will be inclusion and acceptance and pride.

After checking it out, and dropping off my foam-core Tagged Out signs with the lovely librarian, I headed to Starbucks with a friend. I told her I still wasn’t quite sure who would be coming, and therefore what excerpt I should read. My book is for kids aged about 11 to 14. We chose a couple of excerpts and I rehearsed them.

It turned out that the kids who came were toddlers. That was great for the first speaker, Catherine Hernandez, who has a picture book. Her talk set the bar HIGH, lemme tell you–she blew the roof off the joint! She has a gorgeous voice, and she led the kids in interactive finger games, songs and then she read her wonderful book M is for Mustache. She was ah-maze-ing and she had the kids eating out of the palm of her hand.

But OMG, what was I going to do? I couldn’t get up there and read a serious excerpt to toddlers–it would be over their heads… and, BO-RING. My mind was spinning, as I threw PLAN A right out the window.

One thing kept me going–the vibe from the crowd. The parents there were super-supportive and I could feel the energy in the room. It helped, too, that Michael Erickson from Glad Day was also incredibly upbeat. He was doing all the games and singing, right along with the kids, which really made me feel as though I had someone in the audience on my side.

In the end, I completely rewrote my plans and decided to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame with the kids and parents (who, thankfully, knew all the words). So we did that a couple of times. And then I had the kids stand up and we all mimed pitching and hitting a baseball. A few of the kids, in particular, got right into it, which was great. I did a very, very short reading, just to give parents a taste of the book but I got off the stage as quickly as possible, not taking up all of my allotted 10 minutes. I’d done what I wanted to do–entertain the kids and showcase my book–and now the stage was better left to the other performers: author Robin Stevenson and performers Fluffy Souffle and Fay Slift.

Robin read from her book, PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity and Community; she chose some great stories about kids, and told them in a fun way.

Authors and Drag QueensBut for sure, the drag queens, Fluffy and Fay, were two of the highlights of the event. Fluffy was fun and entertaining, and read the kids a picture book they loved. And Fay, who is a kindergarten teacher and many of whose students were there, kind of brought the house down. Fay Slift (say that out loud to “get” the name faster than I did) read a book called Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. It’s about a blue crayon who is always told to draw red things, like strawberries, and when he can’t, becomes frustrated and despondent. Finally, he realizes how much nicer and easier it is to draw blue things, like water and blueberries, and how good he is at it. We all got the excellent message of it, and I’m not gonna lie, there were a few tears.

SO… back to the book marketing and selling part of things. How did it go? I think it was a success. The event was well-marketed by Pride Toronto and Glad Day Bookshop and the five authors and performers. Even though it wasn’t really the ideal audience for my book, I managed to make it work and come up with an appropriate and fun activity. And Michael sold a lot of books at the table off to the side of the room. I also got some great publicity photos and video, which I’m using in various ways.

It helped that I stayed open to the idea of doing an event with a crowd that wasn’t quite old enough for my particular book, and it helped that I embraced the idea of the drag queens even though I knew their energy would probably steal the show–which it did, in a good way.

Book-marketing: The theory vs. How it actually turned out

This is a follow-up to my last post about tying your new book to themes for a more successful event.

That post talked about launching my new book, Tagged Out, and its themes: baseball and LGBT, and how I planned to use those themes to find events at which I could market the book. I focussed on: Pride week and a baseball league’s opening-day celebrations.

So, that was the “theory.” Now let’s take a look at what actually happened. In other words: how’d it go?

1. Opening Day Celebration: A rain-out but definitely not a wash-out!
The Toronto Playgrounds baseball league was celebrating its opening day with a big event and–awesome–they said I could be part of it. It was to be a day of baseball at Christie Pits (where my book is set), complete with batting and pitching clinics, a BBQ, and a local politician throwing out a ceremonial pitch, and then my 10-minute schtick plus book-selling and signing. Amazing.

logo Toronto PlaygroundsThe TP baseball league did a great job publicizing it on Facebook, their website, and Twitter. I created a graphic (using and sent that around through social media. The league was extremely well organized. They assigned a contact who would help me to get set up and answer all my questions, and since he was a former journalist, he would even conduct a live Q and A session with me on the day of the event. He came by and got a copy of my book so he could read it before the event. My local city councillor planned to come to the event as well. And Glad Day Bookshop planned to come to the baseball field to sell the books. I had set up a Facebook event and people had signed up and I had two big foamcore signs made, as well as bookmarks. Tons of people I knew were planning to come. Exciting!

…and then it rained.

The league tried to reschedule, but in the end there just wasn’t another suitable weekend. The event was eventually cancelled–and my launch along with it. The league was great, though, and they’ve offered to film a Q&A session, which I will take them up on. But weather is just one of those things that can’t be controlled: by me, my marketing plan, or the baseball league.

The rain-out was just one of those things.

2. PRIDE: Part I, Indigo book event
Since my baseball book features a strong gay character, another obvious theme is LGBT.  I called someone I knew at Indigo in Yorkdale Mall (a huge mall in mid-town Toronto) and asked if they were planning anything during Pride–which Toronto was celebrating for the whole month of June and into early July.

They hadn’t had anything planned, but immediately liked the idea and offered an event for Tagged Out. I suggested they add other LGBT kidlit authors to the bill, and they agreed that would be a good idea. One of the reasons I suggested this, is that I’m not gay (although the book features a strong gay character, and was beta-read by an LGBT-literature expert who advised me on the character). Even so, I didn’t want to be presumptive about “using” Pride, or, worse, appropriating gay culture just to promote my book. But, knowing that there aren’t a lot of middle-grade sports books featuring strong gay characters, therefore this is a genre that is sorely underrepresented, I did feel confident that Pride was a good, and appropriate, venue for it.

So… how’d it turn out? Beyond my expectations. Here’s what happened. In the end, Indigo decided to just feature me, rather than a slate of authors. They also set up a beautiful “Canadian kidlit” display featuring many Canadian authors and, before the event, my book sold out. They had to re-order in time for the event.

The event was on a Thursday, at 2:00. I showed up at 11:00 because I wanted to do a bit of shopping, and I also wanted to drop off the two-foot-high sign, and ask them for an easel for it. As that was happening… ALL THE POWER WENT OUT. Lights–out. Air conditioning–out. Everyone, including me, was ushered out the doors and they were closed.

I checked Twitter to find out what caused the outage, but no one was tweeting about it and Yorkdale’s Info people didn’t know, either. At least half the stores in the mall were dark. I wandered to the food court, which had power, and ate lunch while I waited for the outage to be fixed. By the time I wandered back to Indigo about an hour later, everything was back on track–and so was my event!

Joyce and Wendy

Indigo’s wonderful Wendy Mason is incredibly supportive of authors, and has vast knowledge and experience about how to expertly market books.

The Indigo-ites had set up a table in a very prominent location, they had books there, and I loaded up the table with bookmarks and set up my sign.  At 1:00, Wendy and I were standing near the table (waiting for 2:00, basically) and a woman walked by the table and kind of surreptitiously grabbed a copy of Tagged Out from the table, and then walked away. Wendy and I looked at each other. And then Wendy ran over to the woman to let her know that “the author” was here and she could have her copy signed–which she did. The woman and I chatted about how her son was a “baseball kid” and would love to read the book.

So the event started that way–about an hour early, which was fine by me. My colleague, Angela, arrived and started handing out bookmarks in the Teen section, to people who looked like they were looking for a good book. Some of those people dropped by the table.

One of the things I attribute to the event’s success is some advice I took to heart from Angela Misri (my co-owner of PGV and a kidlit author as well). She always says, “Get out from behind the table.” So instead of sitting down, or looking at my phone (as I’ve seen authors do), I got out from behind the table and I smiled, and held up my book, and said to passing customers, “I’ve got a terrific baseball book for you!” And you know, far from “bothering” people, as we introverted authors are often inclined to think we’re doing, people appreciated it. After all, they’re in a bookstore to buy books! And, the most incredible stories came out. Here are some of them that, had I stayed ‘behind the table’ would not have happened.

  • One man approached me, wanting to know, “where are the magazines?” When he said he was looking for Sports Illustrated, I said, “Oh, if you like sports, you might like my book!” Good thing I did, because we got talking and it turns out he had been on the 1952 championship baseball team at Christie Pits! He’d spent his entire childhood at the field where my book was set! (And yes, he bought a book.)
    Joyce and the guy from the Lizzies 1952 champs

    I met this man, who had played in the 1952 championship baseball game at Christie Pits, where my book is set!

  • Another man came by, whose grandfather had witnessed the 1933 Pits riot. (One of the opening scenes of my book.) When he found out that I was working on an historical book about that event as well, he gave me his contact information so I can talk to his ms. Incredible! Just the kind of first-hand information I was desperate to find. And, he bought a copy of the book. Oh, and because he’s in the film industry he said, “Hey, maybe I’ll option your book!” Well, tother about what had happened back in the 30hat will probably never happen, but… you never know, right?
  • I noticed a boy standing off to the side, wearing a Blue Jays hat and I ran over to give him a signed bookmark (I wasn’t trying to “sell” him on my book). But he asked about it, and it turned out that he currently plays in the league at Christie Pits! His caregiver bought my book for him.
  • And another boy said that my son had recently umped one of his games at the Pits–he bought a copy.

And aside from talking to people about baseball, I met a man whose wife self-publishes, and I told her about the free videos on Plot Goes Viral on book-marketing. (He bought two copies of the book.) And I met a woman who was looking for information on literacy for her son–I was able to point her to my free literacy website,, for tips (she purchased some literacy books from Indigo as well.)

All of those things happened because I ‘got out from behind the table.’

All in all, it was a very successful event. I made sure to publicly thank the people who had made the event such a success, and I was genuinely thrilled to do so, because they really had done a great job.

Stay tuned for Part III: Authors and Drag Queens!



Authors: Use the right URL for Amazon

Image by Jurgen Appelo,

Image by Jurgen Appelo,

When you’re posting a link to your books on Amazon, you don’t have to use the super-long URL (website link) they give you.

When you search for your book on Amazon, you’ll get something like this:

It’s overly-long and clunky and it takes up a lot of room in your post.

There are a couple of ways you can shorten it. You can paste it into a “URL shortener” like, which will also let you track it, so you can tell how many people use it.

An even simpler answer is to delete everything from the link, after the numbers. So now your link will look like this:

It works, and it’s much shorter and won’t take up a lot of room in your posts.

Use your book’s themes, for a more successful event

You have a much better chance of being able to create a successful book event if you attach it to something exciting or interesting that’s already happening.

For instance, my middle-grade book, Tagged Out, is about a baseball team. It’s also got a strong secondary character who is gay.

I can hook a book event to those two themes: baseball and LGBT.

June is PRIDE week, so I called up a local Chapters store and asked if they were planning any LGBT activities. They invited me to present my book at their location during PRIDE week—and they’re arranging to have other authors there as well, to make it an event.

I’m also doing a Goodreads giveaway during PRIDE.

And, a kids’ baseball league near me is celebrating their opening day celebrations later this month. I asked them if I could do a book event in the park with them that day. They were happy to oblige, because it meant there would be one more exciting event happening during their opening day celebrations. (Their first date was rained out—so my book Launch Tagged Out GRAPHICevent was rained out too, a small down-side to partnering this way. But we’re going to hold it on another date.)

As they publicize their opening day, my book event gets mentioned as well. More exposure and a larger audience than I have alone.

Think about the themes in your book. And try to hook it onto events that are happening near you, that relate to that theme.

It can help you to generate more excitement—and more attendees—for your event.