Articles about J. Robert Whittle books seen in New York media

Reposted from 20111: Amazing news from a visitor to Victoria, BC today … she stopped to talk to Robert at his Bastion Square Market stand and said she had just moved here recently from New York (now that is an interesting move!). He started to tell her about the books and she said there was no need because she had seen so many articles about him in New York newspapers that she knew exactly what she wanted to purchase.

She bought the Victoria Chronicles Trilogy in hardcover and his biographical CD, Laughing Through Life. She actually bought our last copy of the CD so we will be getting a new run made very soon. Robert has sold an amazing number of copies of the CD this summer! (2017: Laughing Through Life is now available as a download in our Store.)

It was lovely to hear New York hadn’t forgotten us because some years ago (about 6 or 7) another customer told Robert the same thing. Quite amazing how one gets known in the publishing industry, especially when you are an independent!

Enter Contests, it matters!

This was originally posted in August 2008, but the content is even more important now with thousands of new books being published every year and the list of contests is growing as well.

Back in June 2008, we had just won our 2nd IPPY Gold Medal in the Canada:West category of the Independent Publisher Contest and we were very excited. The book was our latest novel, Whispers Across Time plus my first co-authorship with my husband. In November we co-authored our 4th book. Whispers was such a fun (and complicated) book to write and edit but, nevertheless, fans were congratulating us even before the award. Once the announcements were made and the award arrived, boy, did it attract sales with that rather wonderfully huge, shiny gold medal sitting on the stand!! I gotta tell you, if you are a writer and self-publish your book, you just have to do the best job possible on it and enter it into this contest or any other one that fits your genre. Check the early-bird entry dates to save yourself some money! Trust me … an award does matter! Seven years has now passed and we’ve needed extra printings of both these books.  We’ve also recently sent our new novel, Silent Destiny, into the same contest to try our luck/expertise again. This time we’re in the Europe Category, Main Category and Ebook Category.

As usual with one of my husband, J. Robert Whittle’s novels, anything that sparks public interest will make them more popular. As with our other novels … there is a romance in this book, with no sex … it’s time travel but that’s our avenue to show you some more history. It’s also a ghost story although it’s not scary in the least! It’s also very suitable for teen readers and parents recommend it heartily! We have fantastic fans who are great with word-of-mouth … if only we could get them to write more reviews 🙂

Where Robert got this idea of writing a time-travel story, I believe it was based on my brief discussion with him of one of Diana Gabaldon’s books which I had read years before (when I had time for fun reading!). We had never seen a time-travel or ghost movie, and he had not read a book of that subject but somehow his amazing imagination brought us purely magical content … said his fans!

It just goes to show that when you’re a writer you shouldn’t put yourself into a box and not think you are incapable of something, you just never know. My husband says his books write themselves … and he just lets it happen with amazing results. When you start in later life, you need all the help you can get!

I am having so much fun co-writing with my husband and although we don’t do it together, we seem to have worked out the perfect methodology in our 10-year publishing/writing career. Can’t believe it will be ten years in December. So much has happened, so much has been achieved AND so much joy has been brought to people’s lives – we hear about it everyday. Somehow that makes all the effort worthwhile.

If you haven’t tried one of our books and are curious, check out our website links in the green list at right or here You won’t find them in your bookstore unless you live near Victoria, BC but we ship our books all over the world. Fans say our books make great gifts for any age and our books are so well made by our printer (Friesens) we never hear that they have fallen apart and, trust me, they are read and reread. They are totally family friendly and are used in schools and by homeschoolers.

Now, I’ve gotta get back to work, I have a book to finish for Christmas 🙂
Thanks for visiting … see you next time.

Find YOUR Niche Market – Part 1

So much has happened since we began this amazing and wonderful journey of writing and publishing books. In 1998, when I published my husband’s first novel, I had no clue what publishing or marketing was all about and my self-confidence level was pretty low. All that changed pretty quickly as we found the best way to sell our book(s). This post tells you what our experience has been; I hope it helps to give you some ideas. Relate it to your circumstances and never hesitate to ask your friends or family if they would like to help. Ask them if they would like to read your new book while you’re in the later editing process. We rarely had time to do this but it could be vitally important to your success. Later, you may find someone to help you with markets/shows or webpages etc.

Today we’re in the 16th year of the life of our micro-publishing company, Whitlands Publishing, and I still need to assure myself that yes, we have written and published 12 novels, of which I am author/coauthor of 5 of them. I have also produced 4 audio books (2 of which I narrated).  Three of these novels are Canadian bestsellers (my husband’s) and in 2007 and 2008 we won IPPY (Independent Publisher) Gold Medal Awards for our region of Canada West (half of Canada). This is not only a writing award but a publishing award as well and important enough to enter. Now, many people in the industry tell me that all this makes me an expert in the field!

Our niche in books is mainly historical adventure but the marketing niche we developed was, and still is, a not-often-used method … by virtually standing on the street at outdoor markets and/or indoors craft/info or trade shows. We merely talk our fool heads off about our great books and attempt to persuade people to buy them.

“Who has time to do this?” You ask. Writers need to spend all their spare time writing, after all you are a writer not a marketer. Well, in our case, that’s where I came in because I was able to sell at some of the small markets and have time to do all the rest of it … editing, publishing, website, retail, online and other marketing. Farmer’s Markets and summer markets have been so successful for us, they became our ‘niche market’ and it was more lucrative than the uncertainty and short season of retail sales. We live in a tourist city and, although the early years were somewhat better for us prior to the recent years of worldwide economic problems, these summer/winter markets and shows remain our best avenue for sales. It became obvious that Robert had the necessary personality for this … he is confident, outgoing and pleasant, enjoying talking about his books and history to anyone who will listen. He is also probably his own greatest fan having read each of his own books numerous times since they were published!

In the early years, it got easier with each new book, now it often takes too long to talk about all of them. Winning an award really helped too. It was easy for Robert to talk about history, he’d lived it in England for the first 35 years of his life, for me it didn’t come as easily. After 14 years I still have to force myself to relax and just enjoy talking to people. I’m not as good at it as Robert, never will be, but then he’s The Man! A Tip: Don’t think too hard on ‘selling,’  just enjoy the conversation and then ask if you can sign a copy for them. Many will be surprised because it hasn’t sunk in that you are the actual author, then they usually become more interested!

Another way to look at your Niche Market is … who is going to buy your book? Is it male, female, boy, girl, young, old. The trick is then getting to them. For us, markets enabled us to have contact with some youngsters but mainly adults of all ages. They liked the books and realized they would be good for the younger members of the family partly due to their lack of gratuitous sex and violence.

I haven’t mentioned our schedule of markets/shows, but we do a lot of them. When you find something that works for you, you need to milk it and we did just that. Robert now regularly has his photo taken with the people who buy his books. You will be wondering when Robert has time to write. For the first few years he became prolific, writing quickly, and selling days were minimal. Then it got busier with a spring/summer market (Bastion Square) that went from April-October. By the end of the first summer, we knew this NICHE of summer markets was working for us despite having only one book. A few years later our schedule got busier and Robert only had 3 months of undisturbed writing in a year, but somehow he managed to churn out enough books for me to edit and publish year after year. When fans want something you make every effort to get it for them, if it is at all possible … after all this is a business.

Who would have thought it possible and, personally, I think a lot of people (friends and family) were afraid to encourage us because they thought we were going to fall flat on our faces. But they didn’t count on the talent, love and support of the one person that mattered … my husband, author J. Robert Whittle. Writing his first novel in his early 60s after never even thinking about writing, was the first miracle, that he was good at it was the second, and my interest was the third! After publishing his third novel in 1998 (the first 2 are not published yet), together we have managed to survive in this tough business for 15 years so far! (many more details on his Bio Page)

This blog entry is already feeling like a therapy session, but I want to illustrate that it really doesn’t take a lot of money, knowledge or support from those we know and love. We had only enough money to print the first book … but it was enough to get us started. In 1998, with the Internet in its early days, we had little knowledge, but we sure learned fast once people started buying that first book! We don’t recommend being as ill-prepared as we were, things have changed and there’s a lot more competition and information now. All the early support came from each other … and that turned out to be enough too because our fans soon became very encouraging, even demanding! If I can do it in my 50s and 60s, anyone can tackle writing and marketing a book. There are so many instructional websites, forums and groups on the internet today … check out Facebook and LinkedIn as well … or Google it!

Now don’t get me wrong, many people think that we’re making a ton of money because we’re so successful. How we wish! Sales have been great but self-publishing means you pay all your own expenses. With all our printing (no ebooks until recently), show registrations, two vans and travel expenses (many are away and we live on an island), this became a labour of love that gave us something to look forward to everyday – more than many people can say. Today we are very close to retirement but we’ll still keep boxes of books handy and do smaller markets as we’re able. We’ll also never stop enjoying the comments our readers tell us about how much enjoyment we’ve brought to their lives.

But back to writing and publishing. “Don’t quit your day job” is a popular expression told to writers and we feel that it continues to be very sensible advice.

So GOOD LUCK until next time. (Part 2 will follow soon).


Non-US Self-Publishers need to register

If you are a self-publisher using Amazon/Kindle or Smashwords and DON’T reside in the USA … LISTEN UP!!

01TrYou must register with the US IRS to find out whether you will need to pay taxes on your book sales or if you are exempt.

This is one of those annoying jobs that is very easy to forget because most of us hate government forms and have a fear of filling them our incorrectly and paying the consequences.

If like us, you reside in Canada where we are apparently (unofficially apparently) exempt from these US taxes, you still must deal with this situation and the sooner the better.

I found this article … a very helpful and well-described blogpost by “Catherine, Decaffinated” … here is the link.

Here’s a sample: She uses the example of an Irish author named David who actually got his EIN within minutes … over the phone!”

Here in part is his tale: “As many of you will know, Amazon and Smashwords are required by law to withhold 30% of the royalties earned by non-US authors until they settle their tax status. The commonly accepted method of doing so was going through the laborious process of getting an International Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which necessitates arcane form-filling, notarized copies of passports, embassy trips, fees, and inexplicable rejection (writers should at least be used to the last part). And indeed, this was the path I was on myself, up until yesterday. Use above link to read the whole story.

Good luck.

Be Precise, Say it Simply: Seven Ways to Avoid Overwriting

This is the title of a blog entry on by Emily Craven. Emily is a witty, enthusiastic, and talented self-published author from Australia whom I adored the first time I heard her speak. Her talents include writing informative and humourous blogs and being the author of fantasy and YA fiction.

Thanks Emily.

Emily’s Blog
Emily’s Books

See you next time.


NB: previously posted at

Using Drop Caps in your ePub and Kindle eBooks

I just discovered the Tips website of fellow member of LinkedIn and wanted to share … how to go that extra mile in formatting your book for ePub and Kindle. I have not tried this yet, but I’ve thought about it often and seen many old ebooks with this feature not working! I use MSWord so it may be a challenge. I’ll keep you posted 🙂  Link for Drop Caps Also check out Marks’s website for other great tips. I’ve registered to “follow” him so I don’t miss anything! An additional tip on same subject from Cathryn Isakson on LinkedIn: “If you fiddle around with the font size in the dropcap definition, you can get the baseline of the dropcap to align with the baseline of your paragraph text. In my last ebook, I also added a subtle colour to the dropcap and it came up well.”

How to format eBook Images in ePub

Ah, the joy of it! We were having endless problems formatting our kids chapter books into ePub format with Smashwords. Today it was solved thanks to the very detailed tips by Paul Salvette. We had gotten so frustrated we had given up, but today I did a search for the issue and found Paul’s website. Now, thankfully, all is right with the world!

One of our issues has been no Table of Contents showing up,
another was text changing formatting and some of illustrations not appearing.

We thought we had followed Smashwords’ Style Guide explicitly but it still didn’t work.

Thanks Paul, we are in your debt.

Follow his instructions to the exact detail and you should have success too … and this helps a myriad of problems in books without images!!

Good luck.

Marketing Self-Published Novels

This is a handout from a lecture I gave on March 10th, 2012, for 3Penny Publishing in Victoria, BC.

Getting Down To Business for Writers Workshop

Having your own business takes discipline, stamina, and a computer!
For today’s purpose, I’m going to focus mainly on using the computer as the rest is pretty basic, easy to look up, and you’ve no doubt heard it all before ie., the accounting and keeping track of every expenses & your car use etc.

 Marketing a Self-Published Novel

– Non-Fiction has some differences and are often easier to write and sell. ie., can manipulate sales easier to get high rankings from*

First Steps  (in brief)

1.  Write the book!! This may be obviousto you, but to many it is not. Why waste precious time worrying about publishing etc? It could take you 1,2 or 3 years (or more!) and everything changes soo quickly in this industry. Just get busy and do it!!

2.   Experience the Surrey Int. Writer’s Conference held each October in Surrey, BC. You won’t regret it, but unless you can afford to go again I would suggest you at least write a minimum of a few chapters of your book before you go. Read the next paragraph. Writing the first draft would be even more helpful to take advantage of these options at the conference.

Publishers/editors/agents are present to advise you 1-on-1. You hobnob with successful authors such as Diana Gabaldon, Jack Whyte and published authors of all types/genres. Some of these authors/publishers/agents give workshops which are ongoing for 2-3 days … a packed weekend of learning and sharing with other writers and wannabees.

Note: If you don’t find a publisher at the conference – you will most likely need an agent and they are difficult to find. There are lists (online) and books to read but the easiest way may be to talk to authors who write books similar to yours, Or read the Acknowledgements in a recently published book for the name of their agent. Lots of info on the web. Be aware … it may drown you. At this workshop, we were told that there are so few Canadian Agents they are too busy already … and very little opportunity for first-time authors! Now I hear the same is also true in the USA.

3.  Research how to publish but don’t commit to anything too early! Your choices are: (a) POD (Caution: they charge via ‘packages.’ Do your research.’), (b) Indie or Self Publish with print books (like we did), or (c) Start with an eBook (there’s no guarantee of how a print book will do).

One of many great info websites/blogs:

4.  Do I need a ISBN/CIP?  Yes, they’re needed for bookstores and libraries and free in Canada. They’re easy to get, so IMO cover all your bases from square one!

5Bookstores – (a) Local independent stores may/may not carry self-published books. May depend on subject matter, space availability, subject matter, your popularity from current marketing. (40% comm. is usual). They may list your book online. Talk to them before you finish writing. * invaluable for info: Check out format of books like yours (font, pitch, spacing, title pages) and copy it; the clerk may be an author and will gladly share info with you. *Realize that bookstores have expensive real estate and they must feel your book will be worth having to monopolize this space.

(b)   Chainstores (local or online)  – Chapters/Indigo,, big boxstores (Walmart) etc. take a larger commission (@ 55-65% commission and you probably need a distributor as well (for an additional 15% or so).

(c)  On-line bookstores – some have their own publishing arm ie., Amazon. Research. Ask around.

6.   Join a Canadian/USA/International Indie-publishing association. Some are co-ops. Fees apply.

Watch Rebecca Kennel’s 2010 lecture from an earlier 3 Penny Publishing Workshop. It’s excellent.

Marketing – Local

Now is the time to start work on a Business Plan and Budget for marketing expenses.

  • Book Clubs – offer to lecture and/or give a discount. Libraries may buy 10 books.
  • Join a Writer’s Group(s) – they offer critique – tap into their knowledge and support.
  • Libraries – Talk to them about carrying your books and give a lecture.
  • Lecture to schools and service clubs ie., Rotary, Lions  Non-fiction? Local college, Rec. Centre.
  • Farmer’s and outdoor Markets – books allowed, we were possibly the first to do this in many areas (’99).

Table fees range from $20/day for outdoor, ‘Farmer’s markets’ also have membership fees. Sidney Thurs. Night Market ($45) Don’t be fooled – many come to merely browse, walk dogs & enjoy the ambiance!

  • Craft Shows – rarity not to allow books.
    ie., local parks during band concerts/special events. ($25 and up) Works better if your book is small when combined with another event ie., car show, agricultural/trade show;  Indoor @ Christmas etc. (usually $100/day and up)
  • Specialty stores – ie., Butchart’s for garden-related, gift stores, etc. Best for Non-Fiction

Marketing – Internet

1.  Get your own website – check out different service providers prices, ask friends for advice. We use with great success – not expensive @ $5.95/mo. The cost is if you have to hire someone. Consider a WordPress Blog – so popular now and a lot easier than the regular format. more options than We also have:

2.  Sell your book through your website using Paypal or Clickbank etc. We use Paypal and they now have a shipping component direct from customer’s order – no more waiting in line at the Post Office.

3.  Make an eBook:  eBooks are hugely popular now and ours are available in all formats. We use (Kindle format) and

Smashwords supplies ALL the formats necessary for ALL readers for FREE. This gets you on Kobo, Sony, iPad, Kindle, iPod, etc. It can be tricky or simple and using MSWord works the best. Images can also be tricky. Smashwords has promotions and coupons for discounting books to friends/media or promotion.

Our Kindle sales have almost disappeared since they started their KDP* program for authors. Kindle also have a bit more complicated payout system (+ less commission) for Canadians but this is improving slowly. * Presently, they are giving away tons of ebooks under the KDP program.  has a long thread on their author’s experiences @  (a must read – scroll down for most recent). I am now considering trying this program for one or two books.

 4.  Smartphones: Generate your own website/Facebook/Twitter barcode @  post it on your website, on your book info handout, your poster etc. Any Smartphone can read it with the ‘Qr Barcode’ App.  Open the App and it will use your camera App …  you merely hold your phone close to the barcode as if you’re taking a photo of it. Once it’s a photo it will ask you to open the website or whatever.  Great for seminars/workshops/trade shows etc.


More useful links: