The Savvy Self-Publisher: Lucetta Zaytoun

Debra W. Englander
From the March/April 2017 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

A Consultant’s View
Martha Bullen is a consultant and book coach with more than twenty-five years in the publishing business. She is also the coauthor of several books, including Staying Home: From Full-Time Professional to Full-Time Parent and Turn Your Talents Into Profits. She is the managing editor of The Bestseller Blueprint program with Jack Canfield.

The cover of It’s Already Tomorrow Here, with the watercolor and handwriting, is eye-catching, but the subtitle is in such tiny black type that it’s almost impossible to read. That cries out “self-published,” which is a common mistake among first-time authors. When you hire a graphic designer rather than a book designer, you often end up with a compelling graphic but an ineffective cover. I advise self-published authors to use professional designers and editors so that their book is indistinguishable from those published by traditional publishers.

There needs to be more of a balance between the graphic and the words. With the jacket thumbnail size on Amazon and other websites, it is hard to read. However, a great advantage of self-publishing is that you can easily correct things. I would use a more prominent font for the subtitle and move up the author’s name. Zaytoun can get a new cover designed and upload the files to CreateSpace. Making this change, which shouldn’t take a lot of time or money, is absolutely worthwhile. The online book description is very good, so a stronger cover design will certainly enhance the Amazon author page.

Zaytoun should use Goodreads to connect with readers; it’s like Facebook for book lovers, with some fifty-five million members. Authors can use a number of promotions, some of which are free, except for the cost of books and postage. When you give away a hardcover book, you simply pay for the books and postage to send copies to a specified number of winners. You can also pay to do an e-book giveaway. The author writes the giveaway copy, includes the book cover, decides how long the giveaway should last, and chooses territories (e.g., the United States or all English-speaking countries) for the promotion. She can also use paid ads, including those targeting readers of similar books, to promote a giveaway. This type of campaign can be very helpful in getting reviews as well as selling a book.

 The e-book platform BookBub can be tremendously beneficial for promoting e-books. It’s more expensive, usually at least several hundred dollars, but can give your e-book a huge boost. BookBub is selective, so authors may have to submit their book several times before it’s accepted. Having strong reviews on Amazon is important; Zaytoun already has more than fifty five-star reviews, which is impressive for a self-published author.

Getting reviews in traditional print publications is hard, particularly since many publications screen out self-published books. I would suggest Zaytoun approach targeted media such as travel bloggers and divorced or boomer-age women. She could hire a virtual assistant to research these sites and audiences, as well as podcasts and radio shows. It would take more time and effort, but she could personalize her pitch by saying, “Hey, Ted, I came across your <name of blog> or heard <name of show.> I am the author of It’s Already Tomorrow Here. I am interested in writing a guest blog post….” Offer more than just a review copy. You can write an article and include a link to your website or create a Q&A, and so on. 

The good news is that authors can keep their books alive for years. Major media focuses on new releases, but more specialized media does not. If Zaytoun’s second book has overlapping content, then continuing to promote this memoir will help build a readership for the new book as well. 

Other strategies she can employ to increase sales:

• Book speaking gigs at women’s conferences, which are held in almost every state. She can customize an empowerment message to different audiences.

• Use video strategically. Produce two-minute or shorter videos about her travels and post them on YouTube and her website. This will get attention from readers and the media and also help her online visibility since Google optimizes websites that have video.

• Submit the book for awards. There are a number of awards that are designed specifically for self-published books, such as the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Foreword Review IndieFab Awards, and the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, among others.

A Publicist’s Perspective 
Scott Lorenz is president of Westwind Communications. He has more than twenty years of experience in publicity and marketing, working with authors, corporations, and nonprofit causes.

I like the title of the book. It’s catchy and exactly what happens when you travel internationally, so it’s a good title. But the jacket should be redesigned. There is a lot of blue space at the top; the title and subtitle are barely legible, especially on Amazon.

I would actually recommend Zaytoun consider a new subtitle—one that conveys the book’s message about discovering yourself. The subtitle has to drive home what the book is about. It’s not easy to persuade authors to change their titles, but having a strong title and subtitle is very important. After all, you want to attract both readers and the media. Think about a reviewer who receives dozens of books every day. He or she spends a few minutes going through this pile, and if your book has a confusing title or jacket design, the reviewer is likely to skip your book. When you think of your title, think about keywords. Do a Google search for words associated with the topic of the book. See which words come up first or are highly ranked and use these words in the title. With self-publishing, you can change or update the cover without losing reviews that have already been posted, so there’s really no reason not to redesign the jacket to make improvements. 

Zaytoun could write a stronger description of the book with more details about her life. The book is a memoir, so she can include some narrative about the content of the book such as specific countries she visited during her yearlong trip. She could also create a book trailer to post on her Amazon page. The trailer could include her talking about the book and video from her travels. Trailers can be very effective in persuading readers to buy a book.

Selling some five hundred books prior to the official publication date shows that Zaytoun has the energy, capability, and interest in pushing the book. That’s what authors must do. You have to keep flogging, and no one does that better than an author. 

To increase her sales and visibility, I would encourage Zaytoun to do the following:

• Approach TV and radio personalities where she lives. Some of the best reviews come from someone with a prominent affiliation such as Joe Smith of local Fox News or the CBS Raleigh TV affiliate. 

• Attend book festivals, especially Christian book festivals, which are held throughout the country. There are several near her home, such as the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference or Asheville Christian Writers Conference.

• Enhance her Facebook presence. Facebook has become even more important than a website, so authors need a very robust Facebook page. Facebook pages are also ranked by keywords, so this is another reason to have a title that includes the strongest search phrases. Zaytoun can also post video regularly and share content on the Facebook page so it is seen as fresh, not a static website. She should also consider buying ads to attract readers who have bought books similar to hers. 


Debra Englander is a New York City–based freelance editor and writer. She managed a business-book program at John Wiley & Sons for nearly seventeen years and previously worked at Money magazine and Book-of-the-Month Club. She has written about business and books for numerous publications, including USA Today, Good Housekeeping, and Publishers Weekly.