Marketing Basics for Authors

Recently, someone asked my advice about marketing to reach more readers. It was a rush-rush morning, but I wanted to say something helpful.

Here’s what I said, in email, warts & all…

To sell more books, start with the basics. Even if you’ve already set up some of these systems, revisit them regularly. (I do, with my own books & marketing.) There’s always room for improvement and updates/tweaks.

If this is new to you, it may seem daunting. It’s not. You can do nearly all of this – or at least start the ball rolling – in half a day or less.  (My marketing motto is: “Better, not perfect.” A little here, a little there… it adds up to greater success, week by week.)

1) Set up an Amazon Author page.

You’ll do this via  You can use up to three pen names per Author Central account.

(If you have more than three pen names – as I do – set up a second Author Central account with a different email address. That’s perfectly legal.)

A short, whimsical/intriguing author bio is good, whether you’re in fiction or nonfiction. In the bio, lean more on “fascinating, extraordinary person” than on the authority angle.

If you’re in a fringe niche, go with the cool/weird/interesting vibe. 

Make sure your blog feeds to your Amazon Author page, too.  You’ll set that up in Author Central, with just a link.

For more details… well, I haven’t watched this video, but Dave Chesson is a good friend and he’s usually a reliable resource:

2) Create an Author Page at Facebook.

Set up a Facebook Page (not a Group) for your pen name. At first, set it up so you moderate all comments. Once the fans are there to speak louder than trolls, etc., you can change that, so you reduce admin time. You’ll use this to promote your books and make it easy for readers to Share your posts, too.

I’m assuming you’re using something like HootSuite‘s free service to manage your social media accounts.

(I’m using PromoRepublic, and absolutely love it. But, if you’re starting out and have more time than money, there’s no reason to leap into that kind of expense… yet.)

Social media is kind of a must. Focus on whichever media reach your target audience. Facebook followers are very different from Twitter followers, in age, income, and interest.

See this article about which audience is where:

3) Work on “also boughts.”

If this is new to you, read but don’t pay any service that might look shady to Amazon.

Mostly, think about the people who should buy your book and know what you’re doing. What best-selling books are they already buying? ( can be useful for this.)

Work on those as “also boughts.”  I recommend using your free days in Kindle, coordinated with a $5 promotion or two by bknights at bknights’ promotions are easily the best deal I’ve seen for the money, and they can organically improve your book sales, while staying within Amazon’s Terms of Service.

I’m not sure if this podcast might give you more insights, as I haven’t listened to it, but Chris Fox is pretty reliable on any book marketing topic: 

This video (also by Chris Fox) may be helpful, too:

4) Put your book covers (and Amazon OneLink Affliate links to them – ) in the sidebar of your website.

Add Pinterest-ish graphics to your posts, for more exposure. I recommend  LH OGP Meta Tags (free WP plugin) for OGP Image selection, and Social Media and Share Icons (Ultimate Social Media) (also a free WP plugin) to get more buzz, as well.

Those are starting points for authors to reach new readers.

When the Writing Spoils the Book – Editing and Proofreading Tools

when writing spoils book - editing and proofreadingAs a somewhat compulsive reviewer – with lots & lots of reviews at – I read (or at least start reading) several books every week. For me, it’s relaxing. And I enjoy writing reviews.

And, perhaps in “physician, heal thyself” mode, I need to talk about the quality of writing in some books I download to my Kindle reader.

See, in my book about fast nonfiction, I said that content was more important than being finicky about editing and proofreading.

The success of many of my own books – that were published despite being first drafts – proved that my readers want facts. The more data and trivia I can provide, especially while the topic is trending, the better.

That’s still true. But now, competition can be steeper. I need to revise and update my “write fast books” book. I need to recommend taking an extra day or two to fix the most glaring problems.

While I’m editing that book, the following advice may help fast nonfiction authors. It goes double if you’re publishing fiction.

No excuse for terrible grammar or typos

If your readers see errors in the “look inside” part of your book, they won’t buy or borrow it.

If they get halfway through the book and put it down because the typos or grammar glitches are too annoying, you’ll get one-star reviews.

Spend a little extra time fixing the worst problems that leap off the pages of your book.

Most word processors, including free ones like OpenOffice and LibreOffice, include spellcheckers (and sometimes grammar checkers) that catch far more mistakes than they did, even two or three years ago.

For free editing, the Hemingway Editor (formerly called “the Hemingway app”) was one of the first free, online editing tools. In most cases, it’ll highlight the text that really needs improvement. (It will also highlight a few things that are fine, as-is, unless you’re writing a dissertation for your Literature or English degree.)

Note: The free, online version can require a lot of tedious cut-and-paste, and it doesn’t seem as precise as the paid/desktop version that I own… but rarely use, now.

Then there’s Grammarly. I’ve used it and liked it. And, they have a free version. You can add it to Chrome and then write in Google Docs, and it’ll identify your worst writing blunders. It’s more finicky – but also more helpful – than Hemingway Editor.

But, about a year ago, I started using (and absolutely love) ProWritingAid. Like Hemingway Editor, ProWritingAid offers a free, online version.

For me, it’s the next best thing to hiring an editor. And, since I use their Premium edition, it interacts with Scrivener.

Their customer support is personal, and it seems to be run by the team that created the software. And they respond quickly.

So, ProWritingAid is easily my top recommendation. I can choose how finicky I want to be. If I’m rushing through a topical nonfiction book, I can decide what kinds of grammar errors I want to focus on… and skip the rest.

In other words, I don’t fix everything they flag as bad grammar. Don’t feel as if you have to, either.

It saves me time. It helps me polish my work. I love it. Try the free, online version and see if it works well for you, too.

Ghostwriters can be great… or terrible

Sometimes, I read a book and, within the first few pages, realize it was outsourced. The grammar is awful. The sentences make little sense. Only the gist of the topic (or scene) is there, and even that is difficult to discern.

I know that person hired someone at or a super-low bidder at, or at a similar site.

And, the person publishing the book thought it was ready to publish.

It wasn’t.

Maybe the publisher was rushed. Maybe he or she has reading challenges. Or maybe the person’s first language isn’t English. He or she hasn’t a clue how bad the book is.

That’s tragic when it’s fiction and the plot seems fun, but I just can’t get past the awful writing.

The plot matters… a lot

Make sure you’re starting with a good plot.

If readers don’t care about your characters and what happens to them, or your plot doesn’t hit the right notes, the writing doesn’t matter.

I recommend Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. If you can buy only one book about writing fiction, that’s probably the best one to get. And, in my opinion, it’s most useful as a printed book. (As I’m writing this, it’s less expensive in print than in Kindle, too.)

What to expect from ghostwriters

Many people have jumped on the “hire a cheap ghostwriter and get rich with fiction” bandwagon.

Umm… that can work, but don’t count on it.

Let’s say you had an idea for a book. You (or someone you hired) crafted a great plot with engaging characters.

Then, you hired someone to write a novella, around 25,000 words. Now, you’re not sure if the book is ready to publish.

In ghostwriting, price matters.

  • If you’ve paid them less than $200, expect a rather rough first draft.  It’s not a ready-to-publish, finished manuscript. (Exception: when the ghostwriter is fantastic, but just starting with a site like He or she may offer super-low prices, just to build a resume and get great reviews.)
  • If you’ve paid over $1,000 for that novella, the book should need little or no work before publishing.

Between those extremes, anything is possible.

Is it good enough?

Here are different ways to decide if (and when) your book is ready to be published.

  • Read the book carefully, yourself.
  • Have a friend (or beta reader) look at it, too.
  • Run it through ProWritingAid or other editing software, to see how many problems it flags.

Then fix what’s broken… at least the worst things. (Hire someone if you can’t do the line-editing yourself.)

Also, authors I know (in real life) rave about the book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I trust those authors’ recommendations, so I bought a copy of that book. I may even read (and use) it, someday. But, to be honest, all I’m using – for nonfiction, anyway – is ProWritingAid.

But how does your book sound?

Here’s one of the best editing tools I’ve stumbled onto, after I’ve run my books through ProWritingAid: Read Aloud. It’s a text-to-speech addition for your Chrome browser.

And it’s free.

I’ve tried several text-to-speech tools, and Read Aloud has been the most glitch-free of the bunch.

Basically, I sit at my desk – with my manuscript open – and have Read Aloud read it. (I’ve tried a few options, and like pasting the text into Google Docs, for Read Aloud to read while I have Scrivener open. Then, I fix problems as I hear or notice them. There’s probably an easier way – and I’ll update this post when I find one – but, for now, this works for me.)

Hearing my book read has been one of the best ways for me to recognize when a sentence reads awkwardly. Or when a scene needs to be restructured or totally rewritten.

But this bears repeating: Use editing software before – and possibly a second time, after – you use Read Aloud. Don’t waste your time listening to a book that will need a major rewrite, anyway.

When you struggle with English

Back when I edited books at Harvard and M.I.T., one of my clients was a challenge. His writing was terrible.

Oh, English was his first language, but he usually spoke in partial sentences.  (I’d say, “How are you doing?” He’d reply, “Working too hard. As usual. Yourself?”)

Most days, he worked in a lab by himself. He didn’t need to speak with many people. (He was like Sheldon in Big Bang Theory.)

He was a noted scientist, and – no doubt – a genius. But rewriting his books and papers… wow. That was a struggle, every time.

He wasn’t my only client. Most were visiting professors from other countries. They spoke enough English to take courses, and sometimes teach them.

There was no way they could write books and papers, in English, without the help of a line-editor. I’d edit the work and give it back to the professor, to be sure I had conveyed the right concepts. Then, she or he would sit down with me, and we’d talk about it.

I’d fix what I’d misunderstood. They’d ask how to express certain ideas, and take notes. And then I’d edit the resulting work, one more time.

Often, I was just the first editor. The publishing house would take my work and edit it even further.

If you struggle with English, it can be essential to hire an English-speaking editor. (You can find some at sites like, but be sure to check reviews and references. Or ask your friends who write/publish books.)

My experience as a “fast book” author

I won’t pretend I’m a great writer. Research is where I shine, but that seems to be enough to offset my writing skills.

Competition has increased in the marketplace. I’m editing and revising all of my books. What was “good enough” even two or three years ago… that bar was far too low to remain competitive now.

Keep that in mind when someone talks about outsourcing your way to a fortune, and uses his or her older books as proof.

How Much at What Rank?

When I set book marketing goals, I like to know what I’m aiming for. That helps me decide what to budget in terms of time, money, and other resources.

The following chart is just a ballpark estimate. I started with the Kindle Sales Calculator on Dave Chessons’s site: Kindle Best-Seller Calculator.

Then I added the average net income, per book, for a Kindle book sold in the U.S., and I figured my  numbers from there.

(I’m posting this because I keep misplacing my own copy of these figures. If they’re on my website, they’re easier to find.)

Approximate net income per book sold

TikTok and Social Media Marketing

Vlogging? Know your target audienceHere are my thoughts about vlogging, TikTok, and cultural disconnects.

Remember that line, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”? Late yesterday, I wondered if we should replace “loud” with “raunchy.”

Okay, I’m joking.

For those who don’t know me in real life: Yes, some music is too loud. But… there are also signs when people start acting “old.” It has nothing to do with age. It’s more about getting locked into a specific set of era references, and refusing to accept that time moves on & things change.

But, after looking at TikTok, I’d really like to turn back the clock to a time when people under age 25 (or so) could enjoy the innocence of youth and limitless optimism.

TikTok – at least the videos the site suggested to me – made me want to weep, seeing the cynicism and anger in so many of their apparently popular videos.

Then, my husband said TikTok might echo other cultural norms, which probably reflect the site’s roots.

Now that – apparently – TikTok is trying to go mainstream, their content emphasis may change.

May 2019 update: Yes, their emphasis is changing. So, yes, this may be a marketing opportunity for some.

A Travel Vlog Aside

And that brings me to a friend who’d launched a travel-ish vlog. At Facebook, I’d linked to one of her first videos, and email’d the URL to a few friends, too.

Friends’ immediate feedback let me know I’d blundered.

Well… I didn’t think the language or humor were a big problem, though I’d flagged it as NSFW. Apparently, I should have been more clear about that. Some people felt the video was too raunchy.

I’m not sure of that. My friend may be aiming for a very particular audience. For them, the language and humor may be fine… even an asset.

She was on a South Korean game show, and has a fan following from that. So, she may be tailoring her videos for those fans.

If her target audience included people who might recognize her from her former role at an Orlando theme park, and go all starry-eyed as a result… she may have missed the mark.

Also, if she has an ultimate goal of landing on one of the bigger lifestyle streaming services, her videos probably shouldn’t be NSFW.

That’s not my call.

Would my husband & I watch her videos if we didn’t already know her…? Probably not. Our tastes are more plain-vanilla G-rated than anything at the upper limits of PG-13.

But that’s us. We’re the kind of people who go to Disney World at least two evenings each week. We don’t drink and don’t smoke. And I think twice before I even say “heck” or “darn.”

On the other hand, we’re not snobs; we love keeping up with friends, via blogs & vlogs, when they’re living far from us. So yes, we’ll keep following my friend’s adventures. She and her partner are bright, fun people. We like them.

Other travel vlogs we follow?

Well, via Roku, we regularly watch’s UK travel shows like “Samuel and Audrey.” (We don’t know them.)

That couple go to everyday places and find quirky and interesting things to talk about. I’m pretty sure they’re earning a living from travel vlogging, and being on channels like helps a lot.

Samuel & Audrey's YouTube channel is at

So, yeah… Different styles. Different audiences. Different goals.

You can’t be all things to all people.  Choose your people. And choose who you’re going to be. (Not necessarily in that order.)

And That Gets Us Back to TikTok as a Marketing Option

I’m posting this to say: If your success depends on – eventually – reaching a very broad audience, consider the “what ifs” of what you say & do, now.

To me, TikTok looks like over-eager people, being silly & (maybe) seeking fame/fortune.

Long-term, TikTok could go mainstream… or become yet another “bad neighborhood.” So, I can’t recommend it, unless you’re a high-roller in marketing terms.

(I also wonder what will happen when a future employer does a social media search, and stumbles onto someone’s unfortunate TikTok video from years earlier. Oops.)

As I said, you can’t be all things to all people, but – between an audience of, say, your 1000 True Fans, and Every Person On Planet Earth – there IS a level of success (and an audience) you’re aiming for. From the start, think in those terms.

Be a dreamer, but also be realistic. Decide the expectations of the largest audience you aim to attract. And plan accordingly.

Snowball Book Launch – Early Review

Snowball Marketing and a painful lessonThis morning, I started reading “The Snowball Book Launch,” which I’d pre-ordered.

Okay, some of the people the author references… I wince at their names. I’m not a fan of many (possibly most) of them.

But, so far, the author is making some good points. (Don’t mistake that for an endorsement of the entire book. I’m only a few pages into it.)

One statement made me pause and think:

“The First Rule of Snowball Club is: We don’t tear down other entrepreneurs, authors, or creators.”

Ouch. Yes. That’s one big mistake I made over 15 years ago.

My Big Mistake

Here’s what happened when, yes, I was right… but how I handled it was a disaster.

After I helped someone recover from a professional blunder, she regained her audience, and flourished.

Oh, she still made mistakes. But people like me… we covered for her, every time. And she learned & seemed to improve, year by year.

But then, out of the blue – and for no reason I’ve ever understood – she deliberately sabotaged my career.

(It wasn’t entirely personal. She did the same to several others, at the same time. But, credit where credit is due: She did it masterfully.)

Hurt and angered by what felt like deep betrayal, I publicly ranted about her continuing, self-serving, behind-the-scenes mismanagement.

That was a horrendous, deeply unattractive mistake. If I could go back in time, I’d just keep doing the creative things I was doing, bigger & better. And nothing else.

The result was: She survived the fallout from those of us who spoke out.

We were the ones who had to adapt, one way or another.

That’s when I changed careers, and became a full-time writer.

Learning, Now

Yes, I still backslide and rant about specific people (and production companies) I feel are sleazes. It’s NOT smart, though I may feel ever-so-noble about revealing others’ misdeeds.

(Quietly telling real-life friends, one-on-one, if I see someone edging towards a perilous path…? That’s different. It’s the bullhorn that needs to go.  LOL )

I guess the lesson is, as the saying goes: Living well is the best revenge.

And bitterness – even when it’s appropriate – isn’t a good look for anyone.

Meanwhile, seeing it spelled out so clearly in this book, and having time to reflect on this… yes, it’s a good lesson for me to (finally) take to heart: Don’t tear down other entrepreneurs, authors, or creators.

Those categories cover nearly everyone I know.



At the end of 2018, I decided to phase-out my writing websites and start an actual blog here. Really, it was overdue. My Facebook posts were getting far too long, and only reached people still at Facebook.

(I’m old enough to remember GeoCities. I know when it’s time to move on.)

During 2019, I plan to publish a “best of” book, featuring updated versions of the most important articles – mostly tips and how-to info – I’d previously shared at my main writing website.

For now, this site includes:

  • Resources about writing fiction – especially Regency romances.
  • A few articles about writing ghost stories.
  • Resources & how-to info about writing nonfiction.

Starting in 2019, I’m adding actual blog posts about being a writer, and random lifestyle topics. And, as you’ll see, I’m still the geeky, dorky hippie I’ve always been… and I have no intention of changing.

Peers v. Landed Gentry

Some authors aren’t familiar with the difference between “the Gentry” and actual Peers of the Realm. It was still an important distinction in Regency England. Avoid confusing them; finicky readers will notice.

Here’s how Wikipedia explains it:

Darcy turns up his nose at Eliza BennetLanded gentry is a largely historical British social class consisting of land owners who could live entirely from rental income. It was distinct from, and socially “below”, the aristocracy or peerage, although in fact some of the landed gentry were as wealthy as some peers.

They often worked as administrators of their own lands, while others became public, political and armed forces figures. The decline of this privileged class largely stemmed from the 1870s agricultural depression.

The designation “landed gentry” originally referred exclusively to members of the upper class who were landlords and also commoners in the British sense, that is, they did not hold peerages, but usage became more fluid over time.

Similar or analogous social systems of landed gentry also sprang up in countries that maintained a colonial system; the term is employed in many British colonies such as the Colony of Virginia and some parts of India.

By the late 19th century, the term was also applied to peers such as the Duke of Westminster who lived on landed estates.

The book series Burke’s Landed Gentry recorded the members of this class. Successful burghers often used their accumulated wealth to buy country estates, with the aim of establishing themselves as landed gentry.

(The bold type is my emphasis.)

In Regency England – and even today, in some social circles – peers may be held in far higher esteem. “Landed gentry” can be seen as nouveau riche.

Also, remember that snobbish attitudes are more likely observed among the “top of the trees” upper class and among servants and lower classes. (However, that’s a stereotype and not an absolute rule when creating your characters.)

Between those extremes, attitudes varied by background and personal priorities, even within a household. Mrs. Bennet was very vocal about income and holdings; Mr. Bennet seemed to cheerfully accept people based on their finer qualities.

Jane Austen’s Sardonic Wit

The following article muses about the wit and subtleties of Jane Austen’s writing, as shown in Austen’s own writings.

LR BurkardThere are times when I think Jane Austen and her character Lizzie Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) are more similar than one might at first think.

In letters to her sister Cassandra, Jane reveals instances of caustic observations and remarks (aimed at provoking a few gleeful snickers) which are reminiscent of Miss Bennet, and almost downright nasty.

Jane was not only a family wit, however, but subscribed to THE ” family wit”–the justification behind the tongue-in-cheek observations that we all so love in JA. This justification, I believe, found its expression in Mr. Bennet and Lizzie–but I get ahead of myself.

It is not surprising that Jane disliked some of her acquaintance– don’t we all? But the degree to which she is unsympathetic makes us wonder if it was just to garner a laugh, or if her antipathies ran even deeper-a surprising conjecture for one who showed such great depth of understanding of human frailty in her novels. Let me share a few of the little pokes she took at others, which, mean in nature or not, do make one laugh. Jane, ever the wit, is fabulously expressive.

“Lizzie Bond is just apprenticed to Miss Small, so we may hope to see her able to spoil gowns in a few years.”
JA 1 Dec, 1798 to Cassandra”Mrs. Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.”

“I believe I never told you that Mrs. Coulthard and Anne, late of Manydown, are both dead, and both died in childbed. We have not regaled Mary with this news.” [Mary was Jane’s sister-in-law, who was expecting at the time. Not to tell her was a kindness, but the way she words it here is definitely a “poke.”]

Note that she doesn’t say, “sad news”, or “poor Mrs. Coulthard and Anne.” This is the real Jane, speaking unguardedly to her sister and making no effort to “sound nice” for anyone else. She would probably have told the news quite differently to other ears.

But this is the point: that within Jane’s family, one was quite expected to be a bit, well, cynical. Would the word, ‘jaded’ be going too far?


Jane wanted to amuse her sister in her letters, and no doubt Cassandra is shaking her head with us, a knowing smile on her lips as she reads, but there is a very real streak of unrepentant glee in JA’s treatment of some people.

Here’s another snippet:

“Charles Powlett gave a dance on Thursday, to the great disturbance of all his neighbours, of course, who, you know, take a most lively interest in the state of his finances, and live in hopes of his being soon ruined.”

In this case it is Mr. Powlett’s neighbors that Jane takes a stab at, but it must be noted that she does so with such sarcasm as to underscore her exaggeration.

She is having fun while she writes, and one can only imagine all the little such gems and observations the two sisters shared when together in society, that are not written down.

Many of Jane’s letters were destroyed after her death by well-meaning relatives, leaving us bereft of perhaps hundreds of juicy quotes that should have both appalled and delighted us. This is an unmitigated shame.

But here are more:

“I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there; Lucy is to go…”

” I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

On another occasion Jane is writing some very welcome news regarding the future promotions of her and Cassandra’s two brothers who are serving in the Navy: She starts with: “I have got some pleasant news for you which I am eager to communicate,….” and then shares the news.

Her next sentence is just so, well–Jane. She says, ” There! I may now finish my letter and go and hang myself, for I am sure I can neither write nor do anything which will not appear insipid to you after this.”

It was important to her to be amusing, informative or entertaining, besides merely keeping in touch with her much-loved sibling.

The Austens were intelligent people, and goodness of character, though expected, was not emphasized to the point where it would discourage such delectably sassy thoughts. To some degree, this was a reflection of the times, as letter writing was considered an art, and wit a virtue.

But Jane is not trying to form the perfect letter; she is writing to her sister with whom she was intimate and honest.

Intimations of Eternal Wit
Intimations of the Austen’s familial influence of attitudes are seen in the Bennet family when Lizzie is in her father’s study, and Mr. Bennet is vastly amused by a letter which purports that Mr. Darcy is planning to offer for Elizabeth.

“Are you not amused?” he asks, expecting his daughter to join in his appreciation of what he believes to be ignorant misinformation.

Listen carefully to his next words: “Is that not what we live for?” he asks, completely in earnest. “To laugh at others and in our turn, be laughed at as well?”

Lizzie nods weakly in agreement–she has always agreed with this in the past–but she is not at all in the state of mind to either laugh or be laughed at, anymore.

This penchant for garnering a laugh at other’s expense is so ingrained that when Mr. Darcy visits Lizzie (after the scandal involving Lydia and Wickham is famous), she guesses that he has come “to triumph over her.” No other motivation seems possible to her, when in fact, Mr. Darcy is there to do anything but.

Back to our author. At the end of a letter to her sister which she has written on Christmas Day, 1798, Jane says, “You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve…. God bless you!”

And yet, Jane, we love you anyway.

Regency romance divider


Linore Rose Burkard is the author of what she describes as “Spirited Romance for the Jane Austen Soul,” as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [] quickly and easily. Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

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Women’s Fashions of the 19th Century – Regency and Victorian Clothing Styles

Guest blogger Inez Calender

Women’s fashions of the 19th century can be divided into two basic categories – Regency and Victorian. The Regency era ushered in the century and is named after George Prince Regent of Britain who took over his father’s duties after George III fell into mental illness. The Victorian era refers to the time during the reign of Queen Victoria, crowned in 1837. The Victorian period of style lasted for the rest of the 19th century.

Women’s fashion of the Regency era is typified by the Empire style dress; a high waisted dress made of lightweight fabrics based on classical Greek design. By 1825, waistlines lowered toward the natural waist and bodices became stiff, losing the softness of the early part of the century. Women began to wear corsets, a tight fitting undergarment that lasted throughout the 1800’s. Toward the end of the Regency era of fashion, skirts took on an A-line or bell shape with ruffles, puffs, and padding at the hem in a look that is known as Romantic style, or Regency Romantic.

The advent of the tight fitting bodice and the accentuation of a tiny waist ushered in a new shift in skirts. Skirts took on a dome shape created by cartridge pleats so that the skirt stood out from the body. In the mid 1800’s, skirts widened, and were supported by petti-coats. Women took to wearing several layers of petticoats to attain greater volume. Crinoline were a form of petti-coat made of a stiff, heavy fabric. The crinoline cage created even more volume and characterized mid century Victorian fashion with the huge skirts pictured in films like “Gone With the Wind.”

Later in the century, skirts began to slim down. An over-skirt was added and drawn back create a puffed effect and draped down the back. This accentuation of the posterior was highlighted by a bustle. A bustle is a pad at the rear, supported by a waistband The exaggerated fashion trend increased in proportion until skirts took on a large, shelf-like appearance in 1880.

Toward the end of the 19th century, skirts slimmed down. Sleeves increased in size, ballooning at the top and tapering toward the wrists in what is called a leg-of-mutton sleeve. The corset fell out of favor, criticized as being unhealthy and unnatural to be replaced by the S bend corset, or health corset which created a new silhouette and new look for the Edwardian Age.

For more information on Regency fashions, read this article that includes lovely pictures –

For more information on Victorian fashion including pictures and fashion details read –

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Sense and Sensibility (In Regency Underclothes)

LR BurkardSome authors (not to mention book covers) would have you believe that to dress in Regency style was to be overly immodest or even exposed.

I beg to differ.

The favorite fabric for a Regency gown was undeniably light-weight, being muslin-a very thin, soft cotton. Yet the Regency lady was no more exposed than she wanted to be. An amusing scene from the 1996 BBC “Pride and Prejudice” (Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) is when Lydia has rushed into the hallway wearing only a chemise. The strait-laced Mr. Collins is forced to pass her on his way to the staircase, I believe, and is clearly scandalized. The scene is quite funny, and Lydia herself cannot stop laughing. But what did he find so shocking?

Was it the amount of cleavage in plain sight? Hardly, for a perfectly respectable evening dress could reveal as much. It was more likely the idea of having seen a young lady in her “underclothing” which unsettled poor Mr. Collins.

Half a century earlier, such a sight would likely not have brought the slightest blush to even the most prudish, for during the 18th century, women were required to wear layers and layers of clothing consisting largely of underclothes.

Chemises, stockings, stays (corsets), hoops, panniers, and often many layers of petticoats. By the time of the Regency, costume had undergone a downright shocking reversal, ( beginning in France, which in turn was taking its ideas from classical Greek and Roman styles of antiquity), causing the heavy layers of underclothing to be discarded.

In France, women’s underclothing was in danger of becoming downright extinct–among the upper class, in particular. When this “Empire Style” crossed the channel into England, however, it became less risque, thanks to the more modest English, but the ideal of a long, straight dress, revealing the human figure beneath had still to be maintained. All those petticoats from the previous century, in short, had to go. Same for the long corsets, the hoops, the panniers.

What remained was a simple chemise, often accompanied by a short corset which served to raise and support the bust (precursor to the modern bra), which in turn might be accompanied by a petticoat. This is where personal taste came into play. The long, straight line of the figure was the fashionable ideal and no bulky under-garments could be allowed to get in the way, but ladies could, and did, wear underclothing and the petticoat never disappeared completely from the female wardrobe. The Regency is famous in caricature for the lack of female undergarments, but this propensity of exhibitionism was far less common than the cartoonists’ of the day would have you think.

Most women, like Jane Austen herself– wore sufficient undergarments, and, indeed, dressed quite modestly. The Empire day-dress used sundry manner of textile trickery to conceal the bust (such as, frills, lace, ruches and ruffs, and even light spencers) so that day garments were in particular extremely modest. The few who made do without the short corset and petticoat were probably given the most attention by newspapermen simply because they were, well, newspaperMEN!

Evening dress was more revealing, requiring a square, low bodice, but women were free to use shawls, scarves, feathers, veils and what-not (all of which came in an amazing array of sizes and styles, especially as the Regency wore on), so that they could easily appear more modestly if they so desired. Even to modern eyes, however, bodices from the day are revealing; but again this was mostly the case for evening wear, and more formal occasions. The scantily clad lady sitting in the library reading just wasn’t the way it went, no matter how romance novel designers choose to portray it!

Conclusion: There have always been people of poor taste, then no less than now. It was they who used the fashion “to an extreme”, who did not wear adequate underclothing, and who, unfortunately, represent the era to some minds. Even drawers were worn by women as early as 1804, (though admittedly not yet popular. They were taken from men’s clothing and considered coarse and crude). Princess Charlotte was discovered

to use them, however, which (despite shocking the older set), did much to popularize them with the masses, who adored her.

Given a choice between a diaphanous Regency gown complete with a chemise and corset, and today’s style of clothing for junior’s, I would wager (if I wagered, though I do not!) that the Regency style would be the more modest.

So there.

Regency divider


Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement.

She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [] quickly and easily. For her latest short story check Here

Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

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