About Joyce Sandilands

Robert and Joyce worked tirelessly for 20 years collaborating as authors and Indie-Publishers of 11 novels, 2 children's books and four audio products. Joyce was also editor of all their books and produced all the audio products for her husband, 3x bestselling novelist, J. Robert Whittle. Joyce is also an award-winning Indie-publisher and they shared Two Independent Publisher Gold Medals in 2007 and 2008. Robert passed away in August 2017, at the age of 84 after suffering for many years with Coal miner's Black Lung. He worked in the coalmines for 20 years beginning at the age of 14 and at 24 began leading a First Response Rescue Team in UK and Europe for his remaining 10 years as a Mining Engineer. His widow, Joyce Sandilands-Whittle, plans to continue writing and selling their books both on their website https://jrobertwhittle.com and possibly at some local summer markets and Craft Shows in 2019. She will post News under Events and on Facebook.

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 Amazon.com*

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:  http://allindiepublishing.com/

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!  http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/publishers/index-e.html/

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, Amazon.com, 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.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvcEMuWwNbc&list=UU90woABSqDsHGN7HkzaNFXA&index=3&feature=plcp

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 www.hostutopia.com 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. www.wordpress.com more options than www.blogspot.com We also have: www.bestsellingbooks.ca

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 www.Amazon.com (Kindle format) and www.Smashwords.com

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. Goodreads.com  has a long thread on their author’s experiences @ http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/760122-any-authors-in-the-kdp-select-program?page=1  (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 @ http://qrcode.kaywa.com/  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:

Book Covers

There are many ways to find great images for book covers and I have used several methods for our 12 novels:

Victoria Chronicles - Bk One

watercolour cover image


1. An actual human artist (Victoria Chronicles – 3 covers); and Lizzie Series – last 3 covers of series);  painted by Barbara Porter to my specs via email.




Dreamstime.com image

2. An online photo supplier ie., Dreamstime.com or other such photographic supplier  where you purchase for a small price a license to use a photo for a certain number of copies (covers, articles etc.). You have to read the rules & reg.  I paid less than $100 to use this great image of a Spanish ship for 10,000 copies. I would be very happy to pay this amount again when we sell 10,000 paper/ebook copies of Race For a Treasure!


photograph by author


3. When all else fails and you can get the photo you need, take it yourself, as I did for Whispers Across Time (Fiction). It’s not always that easy, as this photo proves … I took during the daytime during the early writing stage then realized the cemetery scenes all took place at night. Photoshop to the rescue!


public domain image


4. Our first cover, Lizzie, was a Renoir painting in public domain. Our graphic designer (for lettering etc on cover) found this on a website and the original image had been somewhat changed (colour etc).




I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration for your next cover.

Books, eBooks and Links

Here are some interesting book links I found recently. I haven’t checked them out thoroughly so make up your own mind on their value!

New York Times – Jacketcopy Blog

It has an interesting survey of ebook readers and Kobo was ahead of Kindle. Way to go Canada!


BookGlutton – share your opinions with other book readers

Writer’s Digest – always a popular favourite

Auxilary Memory – a blog entry about online bookclubs and cataloguing your own library.

… and, of course …

Goodreads – an Amazon affiliate where you can vote on our books!

I needed more editing time … just get on with it!

Republished from our old blog but still time appropriate:

Yes, the manuscript achieved its first deadline and went to the printer (Friesens in Canada). I mean, we don’t play around, these books are printed for real not POD (print on demand … translated aka one-at-a-time). We tried that with our first book and it wasn’t worth the money etc. We also tried a small POD print run a couple years ago (for our galley copies) and weren’t happy with the quality … a year later when we ran into them and complained, they told us they were having trouble with their printing press. In fairness, they did reprint the copies we had left but their effort was too little too late. POD has come a long way, but we’re not ready for it just yet.

We have always given our readers the best bang for their buck and that’s one reason they are repeat customers. This requires a bit of extra effort and expense. It also means that if you don’t get it right the first time it can add hundreds, perhaps thousands of extra $ onto your next printing costs. That doesn’t count the lost sales due to poor quality and perhaps most important … bad critique from readers. Believe me, that kind of news travels fast these days.

But I digress, the subject is my editing. Actually, the issue was my lack of (time to do the) editing. This is something like the TV show I love to watch … Flip This House … a husband and wife team take a product and under a tight time schedule turn an old house (read unfinished book) into a dream house (read money-making novel)! Hey I like that analogy and, yes, I often get ideas from watching TV!!

Race For A Treasure – our latest (2008) stand-alone co-written novel was planned to arrive for an early November deadline to begin our Christmas Craft Show season – well our plans began going awry as soon as we sent it to the printer. One of those unforeseeable problems arose and after some extra work with the printer, it is finally on track but will be 1-2 weeks late! I have to hand it to Friesen’s thought, they have done their darndest to keep me on track!

So, the lesson for this issue … you must get it right the first time!! Time wasn’t on my side this year and it’s hard to admit to my husband and our eagerly waiting fans that I am not Super Woman after all!!

During the editing process there is so much to deal with that time can easily get away from you. Your brain can only work so quickly (especially when you’re in that ‘senior’ category). You simply do your best, BUT make sure it produces a book you are proud to put your name on and it hasn’t cost you your last $.

The editing process is so complicated and I have so much to share while it’s still fresh in my mind … let’s make it a separate issue … so until next time.

Happy editing and publishing.

I love WordPress!

What a great invention!  Anyone in business knows that an impressive website is a must these days and I have been working on webpages for over 20 years (from the beginning of the internet). Finally our 2 websites are once again getting organized and I couldn’t be happier. They have certainly evolved since my first Netscape page so many years ago!

Today I’m also using the WordPress widgets from iThemes (and I’m learning Builder as well) which makes it a lot faster as they do so much of the setup for you. iThemes is a great help considering I am getting so slow at this. I hope you enjoy your visit … stop by often or subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up with my additional tips for authors and self-publishers.

Take a look at our main website … if you’ve visited before, it is now so much easier to find things and use the shopping cart. I have so much more I want to add, including photos and a video, I wonder how long it will take me to figure it all out (including finding the time)!!

Thanks for visiting.

Tips for Self-Publishing

I loved the original title of my blog … Books, Marketing & Self-Promotion (which was moved to this location in Nov. 2011). I wanted to continue to use it here but it was simply too long. So, henceforth, this will be know as “Tips for Self-Publishing.” I’ve moved many of my original blog pages here as the content remains virtually the same in the book publishing industry, however, I have updated them where necessary. There will be more to come and I will try to keep my posts short, but hey, I’m a fiction writer and detail is my specialty that’s why my husband and I work so well together!!

If you’ve arrived here and this is the first page you have read … this website is a series of blogs by moi, author, Joyce Sandilands, a Canadian-born author from the lovely Pacific Northwest and Victoria, British Columbia. This website/blog is all about my own SELF-PUBLISHING experience with my husband, Robert (Bob) Whittle.

Robert (he will be 80 in 2013) and I began our book writing journey in Aug. 1998 when I decided I simply had to publish the 3rd novel he had written during a 3 1/2 year health crisis. The book was titled, Lizzie : Lethal Innocence. Suddenly thrust into the unknown world of (self) publishing, I grasped all the experience I could muster from a collection of  jobs over the years and, life experience of my past 50+ years, then set out to introduce what I thought was an amazing work of literature to a local audience. With me editing, as well as organizing the publishing and marketing of  Lizzie on a shoestring, I set Robert loose on his early morning Timmy’s coffee mates armed with a supply of our newly published book and eagerly waited to see what would happen. We also got accepted into local bookstores, something many self-published authors soon found difficult to achieve.

Incidentally, writer Robert was now known as author* J. Robert Whittle  (J stands for John).

Within 2 weeks, with the help of the books he had sold and comments from our first readers, he gained a lot more confidence in his new talent and began to talk to anyone he came near. It did not take long for word to spread. I should point out that ‘confidence’ had been Robert’s middle name since a youngster but writing had never been in his vocabulary prior to this! Four weeks later at Christmas, we were pretty sure we had a winner (whatever that meant) and by March, having sold 500 copies, we printed another 2000 copies. That summer we began selling this book from our market table at James Bay Farmer’s Market, never having heard of any writer/author of a novel having done this anywhere before and many international visitors told us so!

*  we were aware of the controversy that self-published authors were not ‘real’ authors in the eyes of ‘professional’ publishers and discerning readers, so at first we never referred to Robert as an author even though his name was on the cover. Today that situation re using the term ‘author’ has changed, even though the controversy is still present in some circles.

Surprisingly, sales continued miraculously and slowly, one customer at a time … in person! Once we realized how much readers love to meet authors (and especially my husband, judging by the women purchasing his book), we simply gave them what they wanted! He had quickly become a new author  and was soon known by readers in many corners of the world thanks to our city’s tourist appeal! Within two years, we had begun selling at other craft venues as well and Lizzie was Robert’s first of 3 Canadian Bestsellers. I should add that his name became larger on the book cover when it was reprinted!


So, this blog is firstly about me and how I persuaded my husband to write a book, and how my husband, even while fighting for his life, began this new hobby of writing.  And how we turned our labour of love for Lizzie into a successful mini-publishing business over 13 years (so far). We now have 12 novels, 3 bestsellers, 2 IPPY Gold winners, and several self-narrated audio products. We began as raw amateurs with no knowledge, but lots of enthusiasm … and we believed in that little book (at least I did)!

I hope, through this blog, to be able to make your journey of manoeuvering through the complicated world of self-publishing or indie-publishing, as it is now trying to be called (in an effort to give it some class!), a bit easier for YOU.  If I can do this with my limited experience, lack of confidence and advancing age, you can too!!


Selling your Books to Schools and Libraries – Part 2

Using Skype to sell more Books

Still another great MARKETING TIP … this one from Barbara Terchel, author of Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances (see my last post Part 1).

It appears that I have been so busy on whatever I am busy with that I have missed some of the great ways technology is helping authors sell their books today.

Barbara was interviewed regarding how she uses Skype to talk to schools assisted by her special dog, Frankie. It has cut her costs and increased her availability to such an extent that she has used Skype over 300 times for this type of visit. She gives you a detailed step-by-step description of everything you need to do and know, including setting up your studio in your home/office.

Listen to this fabulous presentation for yourself  here  on Blog Talk Radio.

Some interesting and useful websites they discussed.