Carrie Rollwagen

4 Investments Lady Bloggers Should Make This Month

invest in yourself

If you want to turn your blog into a business, you need to act like it! And one of the things you’ll need to do is invest in your blog and invest in yourself. Here are 4 investments you should consider making this month:

Lady Blogger to Boss Lady E-Course

lady blogger to boss lady

Enrollment for my new e-course Lady Blogger to Boss Lady opens Saturday. This 7-week course will help you develop your best blog yet and show you how to turn that blog into a business without relying on ad sales or sponsored posts. A value of $497, I’m offering this beta version of the course for only $75! Plus, if you sign up for my Lady Blogger VIP list you’ll receive a discount. If you’ll be in the Birmingham area Saturday, Sept. 12, be sure to register for my Lady Blogger to Boss Lady kickoff event for an even BIGGER discount. (Only 6 tickets remaining for this free event.)

Social Media Training

carrie social media
Nothing says social media like photographing food!

Writer, blogger and social media maven Carrie Rollwagen is offering a social media workshop on Saturday, Sept. 19 specifically for those building a small business or personal brand. The workshop is  an overview of social media marketing and an introduction to all kinds of social media tools. This daylong session will help you find the social media strategy that’s right for your small business or personal brand and give you the inspiration to get started. Topics covered include: Managing websites and blogs; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest; basic keyword optimization techniques; scheduling and organizing; and much more. Tickets are $100 and include lunch. Use the code BHAMJANES for a 20% discount. Class meets Saturday, September 19 at Innovation Depot from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Innovation Depot is located 1500 1st Ave N #31, Birmingham, AL 35203. Get more details and register here:

A Self-Hosted Site

Moving to a self-hosted WordPress site was one of the best investments I ever made in my blog and business. After revamping my website people instantly started to take me and See Jane Write more seriously. If you need help setting up your self-hosted site, WPBeginner offers a free service through which they’ll do it for you FOR FREE as long as you purchase your web hosting using one of their affiliate links. Get more information here.

A Theme As Lovely As You Are

Perhaps you already have a self-hosted WordPress site, but you’re just not happy with the look of your blog. BluChic can help with that. BluChic offers beautiful WordPress themes designed specifically with female bloggers and business owners in mind. I use a BluChic theme for the See Jane Write website and my portfolio site. Themes are $79 and BluChic offers a number of other design elements, too. Click here to visit Bluchic (affiliate link).

I know that investing in all four of these in one month may not be feasible for most people. So decide which investment will be most beneficial for your blog and your business and go for it!

How will you invest in your blog and business this month? 


How to Get Your Self-Published Book in Bookstores

Carrie Rollwagen, author of The Localist and co-owner of Church Street Coffee & Books
Carrie Rollwagen, author of The Localist and co-owner of Church Street Coffee & Books

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Church Street Coffee & Books, one of our sponsors for the Bloganista Mini-Con presented by Laura Vincent Printing & Design.

There was a time when self-published authors got little respect from the literary world, but things are changing. Slowly but surely, self-published authors are being seen in the same light as talented independent filmmakers and musicians — artists producing great work that they are determined to share with the world no matter what.

Unfortunately, however, it can still be pretty tough for self-published authors to get their work sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores.

But it’s not impossible.

Carrie Rollwagen has been on both sides of this table. She’s the author of the self-published book The Localist Book: Think Independent, Buy Local, and Take Back the American DreamShe’s also co-owner and book buyer for Church Street Coffee and Books. So if anyone can give a self-published author advice on getting her books in bookstores, it’s Carrie.

Carrie was kind enough to do a guest post for us listing the dos and don’ts for how to get your book in bookstores.


From Carrie Rollwagen:

Don’t be pushy.

The number one problem self-published authors have is being pushy and aggressive. This makes sense, because being proactive is a good thing in some sales situations, but bookselling just isn’t one of them. When approaching a bookstore, remember that it’s our job as authors to make our books attractive to booksellers and to make a convincing case that our books could make money for the bookstore — it is not the job of a bookseller to put time and effort into promoting or selling our books for us, or to give us shelf space just because we put time into writing a book.

Do offer your books on consignment.

This is one part of the process that self-published authors almost always mess up, and it’s the one that’s most likely to mean you’ll never see your books in stores. In order to be considered for shelf space in most bookstores, you’ll have to offer the store at least 40% off the cover price, and you’ll need to offer your books on consignment instead of asking a store to buy them outright. It’s true that this makes the process much more annoying for us as authors because we’re never sure if our books will be returned, and we might even have to pay shipping for returns. But if we’re going to ask bookstores to give our little books a chance in their stores, we need to offer terms similar to the returns policies and discounts they get from more established publishers. A 40% discount and consignment agreement is really the only way to do that.

Do leave a free copy of your book.

When you self-publish a book, it hurts to give copies away for free, especially when you’re fairly certain they won’t be read. But it’s important to give free review copies to booksellers anyway. Don’t leave a copy of your book and ask that it be returned to you — booksellers receive anywhere from dozens to hundreds of review copies each month, and they just don’t have time to keep track of returns. Giving away review copies for free is just part of the cost of doing business in the world of publishing.

Do be willing to wait.

Booksellers and managers are often very busy, so don’t walk into a bookstore and expect someone to have time to meet with you (although you should be prepared with a copy of your book and a consignment agreement in case they do). Tell the bookseller you’re an author who’s hoping to see the store carry your book, and ask what the best way is to reach the manager — usually that’s leaving a copy of the book so they can look at it when they have time, or sending an email with a summary and contact information. (Never interrupt while customers are buying books or when a bookseller is trying to make a sale.)

Don’t tell a bookseller how to display your work.

It’s a great idea to provide marketing materials like free bookmarks or posters for book signings, but do not tell the bookseller that they SHOULD use these materials. Do not tell a bookseller how much shelf space to give you, or tell them that they need to set your book face-out, or tell them that if they would only sell your book, they’d be making tons of money. Give the bookseller enough respect to assume they know their business better than you do, and let them be the ones to decide how to market and sell your book.

Do be a customer.

If possible, buy something at the store when you visit. This isn’t always doable, but proving that you’re a smart bookstore shopper who cares about the financial health of the bookstore will usually go a long way toward getting you an audience with the store’s book buyer.

Do follow and communicate with the bookstore on social media.

The more the booksellers know that you understand their store and pay attention to what they do, the more likely they are to give you a hearing when you come in and ask them to pay attention to your book. Follow on social media, favorite a post once in awhile, and retweet when you can — often the person running the social media account is the same one you’ll be talking to when you pitch your book (or at least those people work closely together), so a little positive attention can really help.

Don’t mention Amazon.

Amazon is an incredibly touchy subject with a lot of booksellers because the company is actively trying to destroy local bookstores. Most customers, and sadly, most self-published authors, don’t understand this, and try to use Amazon numbers, Amazon reviews or Amazon rankings as reasons for stocking books. There’s no need to attack Amazon, but it’s probably wise to avoid mentioning them when talking to independent booksellers. (Also be aware that if your book is published through one of Amazon’s self-publishing services, you could meet a lot of resistance with brick-and-mortar stores.)

CS door prize

At this year’s Bloganista Mini-Con you could win a free copy of Rollwagen’s book The Localist and an adorable Shop Small tote bag designed by Rebecca Minkoff. Be sure to bring your business cards to enter to win this and other door prizes!

The Birmingham Jane: Carrie Rollwagen


bham jane nail art
Carrie Rollwagen is representing for the Birmingham Janes! Contribute to her Kickstarter campaign and she’ll represent for your blog or business too. She’s also offering a nail art workshop as a reward.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I have a long list of answers to this question: do a one-year blogging challenge, write and publish a book, strive to run a profitable small business, launch a Kickstarter campaign. But my list could be summed up with one statement: Be Carrie Rollwagen.

Rollwagen is a small business owner, a prolific blogger, a social media guru and much more. She also has the cutest nails in town. And now she’s about to add something else to her resume — published author.

Rollwagen, co-owner of Church Street Coffee and Books and the writer behind the Shop Small blog, is now about to publish The Localist, a book that’s all about shopping locally. Rollwagen decided to self-publish the book and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund her project. She reached her fundraising goal in less than a month!

I had a chat with Rollwagen recently — at a locally owned coffee shop, of course — about her book project and her secrets to success.

Becoming a Localist

Carrie Rollwagen

Rollwagen’s interest in local shopping began when she managed a small book store in Mountain Brook. She believed that the camaraderie she experienced at that store was unique to locally-owned shops. But then she worked at Starbucks and found the same sense of community there as well. Rollwagen, a former full-time journalist, wanted to investigate.

“I’m a frustrated journalist,” she says.

And so in 2011 she challenged herself to only buy from locally-owned stores for one year. She launched the blog Shop Small to chronicle her adventure.

Rollwagen admits that she thought her “Shop Small” challenge would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive.

She was wrong.

“I spent far less money that year than I usually do,” Rollwagen says.

She explained that when you shop small there’s less of a chance for impulse buying. There are very few, if any, displays set up in locally owned shops to entice you to purchase things that aren’t on your shopping list. Furthermore, because local shops weren’t as easy to get to as big box stores, Rollwagen would often talk herself out of buying things. And she wasn’t eating any fast food.

Finding stores at which to shop was easier than she expected. She often found what she needed simply by asking friends or doing a quick Google search. Rollwagen was even able to go to the movies thanks to the Birmingham-based theater The Edge opening that year.

What was Rollwagen’s conclusion after this year of shopping small?

“Local is almost always better,” she says.

Rollwagen is a localist, but she’s also a realist and she makes no claims that small business owners are somehow better people than the owners of big box stores.

“It is in the financial interest of a small business owner to be a nice person,” she says. “Small shop owners have a better incentive to treat people well and build community.”

If you have a bad experience at Target most likely you’re going to go back to Target nonetheless and even if you don’t chances are the Target employee you had a bad interaction with doesn’t care. Small shop owners know that it’s good customer service and a sense of community and camaraderie that will bring you back.

While Rollwagen doesn’t recommend that other people take on her extreme shop small challenge, she does stress that we should all buy local as often as we can as this is a great way to improve your community.

As Rollwagen explains in her Kickstarter campaign video, for every $10 spent at locally owned stores four to seven dollars goes back into your community. When you shop corporately only three dollars, at the most, goes back into your city.

Think of the local place first, she says. Amazon doesn’t pay taxes in your state.

Deciding to Self-Publish

DIY Publishing

Rollwagen admits that she hasn’t been a fan of self-publishing in the past — and for good reason. As many avid readers know, a book needs good editing, good design and a good marketing campaign to be successful. Most self-published authors don’t have all these skills or the resources to hire someone who does.

But Rollwagen’s book is centered on Birmingham and she thought a book a that was this, well, “localist” wouldn’t appeal to traditional publishers.

“Just because it doesn’t have a national market doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist,” she says.

Rollwagen’s Shop Small blog was quite successful thanks to her fresh, informative content and effective social media marketing. But she knew she had more to say.

“I wanted to tell this story in a new way,” she says.

So she decided to write a book and self-publish it.

The book is part memoir, focusing on her life as a localist and even offering a few tips on how people can shift their own shopping habits to support small businesses more often.

The book is also a study of buying patterns — why you like big box stores, why they’re not all bad, and the effects of our shopping on us as individuals and on our communities.

The book also offers a behind-the-scenes look into Church Street Coffee and Books.

To ensure that her self-published book would be of high quality, Rollwagen launched her Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to hire an editor and designer.

How to Rock Your Kickstarter Campaign

Rollwagen reached her fundraising goal of $5,000 in less than a month. Now she’s working on her stretch goal. She’s hoping to raise an additional $3,000 so she can go on a book tour to spread the localist gospel to other towns.

Rollwagen offered these tips on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign:

  • Apply the tips that Kickstarter gives you and look at projects similar to yours for promotion ideas.
  • Produce a great video and in it be sure to convince people that your project is something that you can actually do. Also, explain exactly how you plan to use the money.
  • Have enticing and creative rewards and be sure to include their cost in your project budget. One of Rollwagen’s rewards was nail art! For a donation of $10 or more, Rollwagen would decorate her nails with the name of your company. Nail art was a perfect way for Rollwagen to help promote her project because whenever someone would say “Oh, I like your nails!” she could strike up a conversation about her Kickstarter campaign.
  • But these conversations could only happen if she was out and about. So Rollwagen’s other piece of advice is to be sure to network during your campaign. And carry business cards that include a URL for your campaign.


The Birmingham Jane is a See Jane Write series of profiles on women in Birmingham who are making a difference in our city. If you know of a woman who is making a difference in Birmingham please send your nominations to And don’t be ashamed to nominate yourself!

Girl Crush: Carrie Rollwagen

Carrie Rollwagen
Photo Credit:  
 A few weeks ago I took the hubster to one of my favorite local coffee shops — Church Street Coffee and Books — and while we were there I had to make a confession.“I have a total girl crush on the owner of this shop,” I leaned over and whispered to him after we had settled at a table nestled in the corner of the shop’s newly opened Reading Room.By the time you’ve finished this post you will have fallen for for Carrie Rollwagen too.In January, 2011, Cal Morris called Carrie with the idea to open an independent coffee shop and bookstore in a space where a Starbucks had stood for the past 10 years. After months of planning, they did just that.

But Carrie is also a woman who loves words. She’s a former copyeditor for The Birmingham Post-Herald, copywriter at Southern Progress and Willow House, and a prolific blogger. So another huge part of Church Street Coffee & Books is its blog, which features book reviews and other musings on storytelling and literature.

What do you hope your shop will offer Birmingham? What void do you believe it’s filling?

“Filling a void” is an appropriate phrase, because that’s exactly what Church Street Coffee & Books did — our shop was a Starbucks for ten years, and the neighborhood was very upset when they decided to vacate. Cal, my business partner, was manager of the Starbucks, so he knew there was a need and a market for a coffee shop in our spot. He also knew that many Mountain Brook residents were still upset over the loss of their bookstore –Jonathan Benton, Bookseller — a few years ago. It was Cal’s idea to open a new shop in the space. He called on me to help because I’d managed Jonathan Benton and worked as a barista. Also, we’ve been friends for years, we work together really well, and we share a desire to create a store that serves the community instead of ourselves.

One of the things I love about your blog is that you always have such high-quality content. I’m impressed you find the time to do this considering you are a small business owner and you read all the time. Any time management tips for those of us trying to balance jobs with blogging and reading?
I think the trick to writing a solid blog is to practice, and to chose a subject that you’re passionate about. I do have a background in journalism, which was really helpful in teaching me to meet deadlines. And I worked for several years as a copywriter — writing ad copy is great practice, because it teaches you to communicate effectively and quickly to a fairly hostile audience. I really try to have daily content on my blog, but when I can’t come up with something, I’d rather skip a day than use a filler post. Of course, for PostScript, our store blog about books, I’m not the only writer — my team of writers helps me quite a bit.

As far as finding time for reading, everyone asks how Cal and I have time to read, and the fact is, we don’t have time to read. You have to make time to read. For both of us, that’s usually when we have five or ten minutes here and there — you really get through a book much more quickly than you’d think, just by reading a bit at a time. I need the escape into the world of story just as much as I need writing; so not reading isn’t really that much of an option for me.

Tell us a little bit about what you’re reading right now?

I read a lot of new fiction, especially since we opened the shop. I just finished Where’d You Go Bernadette, which is smart, funny, and a quick read — I loved it. The Sisters Brothers is one of my favorite books right now. It’s a dark comedy, and it reminded me a lot of Catch 22. I also just re-read and enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d like to read something seasonally spooky, like maybe some Edgar Allan Poe or The Last Werewolf. And I just started Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, which raises some interesting questions about e-books versus paper books.

You once mentioned on your blog that Amazon is a “story-destroying behemoth” which I found interesting. While I can certainly see how Amazon hurts independent bookstores, some would say that Amazon is encouraging storytelling because it offers people more opportunities to get published. Can you talk a bit about why you believe Amazon can be harmful to storytelling?

I’m glad you asked about Amazon. I’m pretty vehement about Amazon, and a lot of people think that’s only because it’s a competitor, but that’s not true. Starbucks is a competitor, but I don’t have any problem with them as a company. But Amazon has made a business strategy of trying to squeeze profits out of the book industry without contributing to it creatively. They sell books for less than they’re worth, even lose money on them, in order to undercut competitors and put us and publishers out of business. They’re trying to get a monopoly on book selling and on publishing, and I think having one entity — whether it’s Amazon, government, or any physical bookstore — in charge of the publishing and distribution of stories and ideas is terrifying. Also, they’ve captured the market on digital publishing and made a device that will only display books purchased from them — it’s as if, when Apple made the iPod, they’d designed it so it would only play songs bought from Apple, and you could never buy an album from a local shop, or from a live show, or from the artists themselves. That kind of control isn’t good for competition, for artists, or for consumers.

A lot of people see Amazon’s self-publishing arm as separate, or as a positive entity, because it gives writers a chance to self-publish. But it’s really hard for me to understand why any writer would put their work into the hands of a company that has a business strategy so opposed to artistic expression and freedom of readership. I’m not against Amazon because I’m a bookseller — I’m against Amazon because I’m a writer and a reader, and I became a bookseller again so I’d be in a better position to try to fight what they’re doing. I don’t know if I’m making a difference or not, but I’m trying.

Can you speak a bit on the importance of supporting small businesses?

There are lots of reasons to support small businesses, but I think the one that shocks most people is the impact local businesses have on the economy. For every $10 you spend at an independent shop, anywhere from $4 to $7 goes back into your local economy. Spend the same amount at a big box store, and that number is just $1 to $4. That money creates jobs, fixes schools, pays off debt. We’re so concerned about the economy, but we’re willing to sell ourselves short by buying from corporations, which I just don’t get. Shopping small probably won’t result in discounts, but your spending will mean something. Instead of buying more for less money, just buy less in the first place. The economy will benefit, and, if my experience with Shop Small is any indication, your life will be fuller and richer (both literally and figuratively) as well.

*Crossposted at The Writeous Babe Project.