In Espionage Thrillers, Emotional Intelligence Matters, Too

From Publishers Weekly:

When you work at the CIA, you’re taught to keep everything you do secret. You must be invisible. As a woman who grew up in a patriarchal family, I was not unfamiliar with the imperative. So it felt dicey when I decided to make public that I worked at the CIA and was writing a book on the subject. Being exposed and vulnerable was unsettling, but with this exposure also came freedom.

I started working at the CIA shortly after 9/11. In the years that followed, there was an immediacy and relevance to the counterterrorism mission that is difficult to quantify. In 2005, I was assigned to support the CIA’s mission in Iraq. As a CIA targeting officer, my days were spent hunting elusive high-value targets, which typically meant high-ranking members of a Sunni extremist group.

In 2010, I graduated to hunting targets in the CIA’s Pakistan Afghanistan division—not just in support of the CIA’s capture/kill operations but also targeting for the potential recruitment of sources. These were challenging tasks in my 20s and early 30s—navigating both the war zones in the Middle East and the male-dominated vaults at Langley.

On one trip to the Middle East to debrief a terrorist we were trying to recruit as a source, I was told to let my male counterparts do the talking. This entailed describing me as an “expert from Washington” and a married, pious woman who took her faith very seriously. When I asked the reason for this backstory, my male colleagues said it was because the source had never met an American woman and that his idea of an American woman came from TV and movies.

At first I was appalled, but then I began to understand. This was when the TV show Homeland was wildly popular, in which Claire Danes plays a CIA officer with bipolar disorder who sleeps with the terrorist she is hunting. Similarly, Red Sparrow,starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian spy, shows the actor nakedly taunting one of the male trainees to prove that she’s unafraid to use her body in exchange for information. This was a widespread misconception among those inside and outside the agency about women at the CIA that I had to fight against constantly.

But it’s not all Hollywood’s fault. Mata Hari, who was convicted of seducing French men and spying for Germany during WWI, remains one of the most infamous female spies in history. Movies like Zero Dark Thirty staring Jessica Chastain, depicting the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, did a much better job, having resisted the temptation to reduce female spies into dominatrices who exchange sex for information.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

3 easy ways to subscribe to your favorite authors online

From ZD Net:

At least once a week, I get emails from readers asking how they can more easily follow my musings. 

Sadly, not all websites are created equal, which means it’s not always that easy to follow or subscribe to a particular writer. 

However, even if a website doesn’t offer an RSS-type or mailing list-type subscription feature, there are ways to keep abreast of what your favorite writers are doing.

Why subscribe?

First, let’s answer this simple question. The main reason to subscribe to your favorite authors is to ensure you don’t miss a word they’ve penned. In this world of constant content, sites tend to publish more and more, which means your favorite author’s posts could get lost in the shuffle. By subscribing to a particular author, you guarantee that you won’t miss out when their work is buried by the deluge of articles.

Another reason to subscribe to your favorite authors is that you can receive all of their updates in a single location. Instead of having to visit all of those websites, you can (in some cases) use a single app to view them all.

. . . .


This is the most reliable means to subscribe to an author. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and works with a reader app to collect all of your RSS feeds into one place. There are two things you must know about using RSS. First, you must install one of the many available apps capable of viewing RSS. Here’s a shortlist of apps to choose from (some of which are free and some have an associated cost):

  • Inoreader.
  • Feedly.
  • NewsBlur.
  • Akregator.
  • Tiny Tiny RSS.
  • FreshRSS.

You will also find that some email clients (such as Claws Mail and Thunderbird) have built-in RSS support.

. . . .

Google is your friend

If those sites do not support RSS, there’s another alternative that can actually serve as a sort of catch-all. Let’s say your favorite writer works for multiple sites and even their own site. Now, let’s say either only one or two of those sites offer RSS, but the others do not. What do you do?

You use Google — not the way that you’re thinking. 

You don’t have to google your favorite author every day. Instead, what you do is create a Google Alert. These alerts will automatically generate emails for you (sent to your Gmail inbox) based on the terms you add to the alert. 

So, you can create a Google Alert for the name of your favorite author and every morning you’ll be treated to an email that collects everything published by them on the previous day. I use this feature quite a bit and have found it to be incredibly reliable.

Link to the rest at ZD Net and thanks to C. for the tip.

Pivot to … Something? The Blurry Future of Podcasting

From The Hollywood Reporter:

As top podcast executives and creators gathered at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn for the Hot Pod Summit on Feb. 23, a question seemed to underlie each conversation: As the industry seeks an injection of new energy amid an advertising market correction and creators experiment with formats like video, what really is a podcast these days — and how will people make money?

In various conversations with studio executives and creators, a common refrain were the difficulties of turning a profit on podcasting alone. Even Spotify, which recently revised its podcast leadership (again) and had layoffs and show cancelations in its podcast division, is reevaluating its spending after pouring more than $1 billion into licensing deals and acquisitions in the past few years.

As such, repackaging audio content and seeking out derivatives like film and TV adaptations could be the key to actually making good money in podcasting, especially now that the megadeals of recent years are getting rarer and podcasters are feeling the pressure to seek out more ad dollars from bigger buyers to keep the lights on long term. And all of this isn’t even to acknowledge the creative ambitions around podcasting, where creators want to produce expensive, buzzy narrative projects that can have a tangible impact on policy or public conversation but may have a harder time receiving funding and support compared to the more assured successes of cheaper, always-on chat shows.

But the move toward new formats was hard to ignore, especially as Spotify’s main presence at a summit for podcast executives was about, well, audiobooks. Featuring Nir Zicherman, the co-founder of the podcast hosting service Anchor who now leads up Spotify’s audiobooks business, author Gretchen Rubin and Penguin Random House Audio content executive Dan Zitt, the discussion didn’t avoid the blurring lines between podcasts and audiobooks and the multiple business models that could exist within that mix.

“Everybody’s scared to call a podcast an audiobook and an audiobook a podcast. But if you really squint, it’s harder to differentiate — and that is only accelerating over the course of the next few years,” Zicherman said at the summit, noting that Spotify was seeking to target the “casual listener” with its audiobooks offering.

. . . .

Zitt was even less precious about a delineation between the two. “Why does there have to be a line drawn at all? This is all audio entertainment to some extent. If there are different models for distributing it, which there are, why not just find the best models to distribute it where people get fairly paid?” Zitt said. “I mean, there are podcasts that are basically now taking all 15 episodes, combining them into one, and selling them in the audiobook space, so it’s not really like these things are working independently now.”

But the audiobooks debate paled in comparison to the trend du jour: how video can be incorporated into audio creators’ workflow and boost business for executives. “Last year when we were all in this room, we could not stop talking about Spotify,” The Verge editor Nilay Patel said in a talk with iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group CEO Conal Byrne. “This year, all in this room, we’re all talking about YouTube and video.” 

Despite podcasting being known as an audio medium, there’s been growing interest around the role of video podcasting — a format most notably seeing interest from players like Spotify, where top creators including Alex Cooper (Call Her Daddy) and Emma Chamberlain (Anything Goes) now regularly release video podcasts as part of their exclusive partnerships with the company. For Cooper, her video podcasts focus on her weekly guests who sit down to tape an interview at her West Hollywood studio, though the creator released a documentary-style video on abortion last October; Chamberlain, who only recently joined Spotify, has so far released two static videos of her recording her podcast in front of the mic.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

Writing Action-Adventure for Women

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Unexpected female main characters have always held a particular fascination for me. I recently watched Enola Holmes with my daughters, and it fed my soul to see a young woman as a smart, resourceful fighter. and not a helpless creature incapable of saving others. Women can be fierce, active participants in the world around them. I write historical action-adventure for exactly this reason.

I have my doctorate degree in physical therapy, and have spent my entire adult life learning about kinesiology. How people move has always fascinated me. We’re trained to examine body language and how that conveys emotion, so naturally, adventure books called to me. Unfortunately, so few feature women in main roles.

Action-adventure is often geared toward a male audience. A hero’s journey is much more solitary, with women often serving the purpose of being the hero’s conquest, with the all-too-common sexualization of women’s bodies. Writing action for women doesn’t always have the goal of power and conquering. For me, these stories focus on family and sisterhood, bonding women and encouraging them to stand up for themselves. How truly refreshing to use a woman’s body for power and strength and courage, rather than to satisfy a man.

Young women have always been a quiet but persistent force in history, but their stories have been largely ignored. I write historical action-adventure to celebrate women working together as an impetus for change. Women are taught far too often to see each other as rivals from a very young age. I think this might be because women together are a force—dangerous even—to the power systems that keep women passive and quiet. I’d like to believe that when women read about trusting each other, supporting each other, and making the right choices for themselves, we can unlearn some of the toxic beliefs we’ve learned.

So much of women’s history has been hidden and washed away and minimized. Once I started searching, I discovered stories of incredible women who broke all expectations. Female acrobatic pilots and Victorian tattoo artists, women kings from the Middle Ages, survivalists and medieval entrepreneurs. Women who take an active role in their destiny and fight for their dreams have always existed, just rarely celebrated.

Maybe I’m tired of the narrative that women can’t be loud and difficult. The idea that women can’t take up space infuriates me. I want to see those daring women and travel on their adventures. I want to watch them fight and battle for what they want.

In my March 30th release, Daughter of the Shadows, 17th century heroine Isabelle mentors under a female Huron warrior, and she in turn teaches others. She fights to save her fellow Protestants from certain death at the direction of her devious husband and Isabelle learns to put her own needs aside to save everyone she cares about. The heart of action-adventure for me is a journey of the body and the mind, driven by empathy and courage.

Action must go beyond the simple pronoun + verb. Movement can show us who a character is by their body language, how they react, what they notice in their environment, and most importantly, what they’re trying to prove. Why are they traveling/fighting/running? If you don’t have an answer for that, the action will feel shallow. Understand their motivation and their adventures will have meaning.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG notes that, once again, the publisher of this book, Black Rose Writing, doesn’t have any preview on Amazon for interested prospective purchasers to examine the first few pages of the book.

As he has mentioned before, PG thinks this is a foolish habit of more than a few publishers. If the author helps promote the book prior to publication, as is the case with this article from Women Writers, Women’s Books, why disable one of the best ways to hook curious readers into preordering by not allowing them to examine a few pages of the book?

Anyone who has spent serious time in a physical bookstore has observed dozens of shoppers open a physical book and read through a few pages while deciding whether to purchase it or not.

Amazon, which has learned a thing or two about selling books online, developed its Look Inside feature to allow shoppers to continue that same book-buying behavior and enjoy it on their various screens.

In this case, Women Writers, Women’s Books, includes a detailed description of the book at the end of the OP, but giving interested viewers an opportunity to check out the actual book could well close the deal for more than a few who planned to take a wait-and-see strategy until they could actually examine what was inside the book to avoid the hassle of trying to return a book they wouldn’t like.

Top Ten Ways to Market Your Book in a Month

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

It can be daunting for authors when you have no idea how to market your book, yet it is essential to get your book in front of readers to make it successful. Here are the most important and effective book marketing strategies authors can use to promote their books and reach a wider audience.

How Can You Market Your Book?

Your author platform is a slow build, so keep that in mind. Overall visibility is the key to connecting with readers.

. . . .

Build an Author Platform

The first step in book marketing is building an author platform. This includes creating a website, blog or vlog, social media accounts, and an email list as your basic first steps.

Your website should be the central hub for all your book-related content and should include information about your book, your author bio, blog topics related to your interests, and a way for readers to contact you. 

Social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, can be used to engage with readers and share updates about your book (and don’t forget TikTok #BookTok and YouTube #BookTube – video is popular).

An email list is a great way to stay in touch with readers and tell them about upcoming events, book signings, and new releases.

Network with Other Authors and Industry Professionals

Networking with other authors and industry professionals is an important aspect of book marketing. Attending book festivals, writing conferences, and book clubs can be a great way to connect with other authors, publishers, and literary agents. Joining online communities, such as Goodreads, can also be a great way to connect with other authors and readers.

. . . .

Create a Book Trailer

Creating a book trailer is a great way to give readers a taste of your book and build buzz. A book trailer is a short video that can be shared on social media, on your website, and on YouTube. It can be a simple animation or a more elaborate production, but it should be engaging and give readers a sense of what your book is about.

. . . .

Host a Book Launch Party

Hosting a book launch party is a great way to celebrate the release of your book and build buzz. You can invite friends, family, and media members to the event, which can be held at a bookstore, a library, or even your home. The event should be focused on your book, and you should have copies available for purchase and signing.

Zoom became super popular during the COVID-19 period, so be sure to consider an interactive, web-based platform as well. In fact, you can now hold audio-only spaces on Twitter Spaces (mobile-only), Clubhouse, or do video ‘lives’ on Facebook or Instagram.

I did a Twitter Space launch for my seventh book, Broken People, and had several hundred attendees!

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

The author of the OP is a a female author named Rachel Thompson. PG checked her Amazon Author Page. He was not impressed, but others will disagree.

5 Strategies I Use to Launch New Books in Kindle Unlimited

From BookBub:

The book launch. Whether it’s your first precious baby leaving the nest or number double-digit joining a long line in your series, the launch is always stressful… but each one is also a great opportunity.

If you talk to ten different authors, you’ll likely get ten different launch strategies they feel work best. They may all be right. Genre, time of year, timing after last release, and dozens of other factors play a part. Especially for those of us focused on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited (KU) readers, the biggest needle mover of all is your relevance. The more books you sell, the more The Great Zon promotes you. In the past, Harlan Coben, Colleen Hoover, and Gregg Olsen have been voraciously consumed, so guess what happens when they release a new book? The Zon shows their shiny new cover to everybody.

. . . .

Part I: Reaching Your People


Our golden arrow in the quiver, without question. This is a direct message to Your People who want to know about your latest novel.

I prefer to grow my list as organically as possible, but that’s a choice I employed after reaching a reasonable number of subscribers through newsletter swaps or Bookfunnel events. What’s that number? One man’s floor is another man’s ceiling, so as with all of this, opinions and successes will vary greatly, but mine was 1,000. I spent a long time at the 800-subscriber level as I weeded out the freebie grabbers from past Bookfunnel promos and my organic sign-ups grew. Once I inched across the 1,000 threshold, I became more particular and the list has grown steadily from there.

I send a short newsletter containing only the new book and the next one going on preorder. That’s it. Two calls to action — which some will tell you is one too many, but I get a nice start to the preorders from it, and I don’t think it hurts me in any way.

Screenshot Of Newsletter Promoting A New Release And A Preorder

I resend unopened emails two days later. For my latest release, Anchor Point, I even did a third unopened resend. I average a 50% open rate on my newsletters, and the unopened resend gains another 10%–12% of the original list. The second resend gained another 5% for a total of 68%, which is pretty good I’m told.

Okay, we’ve fired our golden arrow three times and reached 68% of our subscribers, which leaves all the people who dodged the arrow… plus the people who were hit but too busy to remember to buy the book… plus those who love your books, but haven’t or won’t subscribe to a list. So what’s next?

Social Media

Whether we like it or not, part of the business is having a social media presence and building a following. I use Facebook and Instagram. I use them both as they’re linked, and I can post on both at the same time. If they weren’t, I’d probably ignore Instagram. I have a Twitter account and I even tried TikTok for five minutes, but neither gained traction for me and they now sit idle. I know they work well for others, so pick your poison and focus on the outlet where your buying audience spends their time.

Regardless of which platform you use, creating a buildup to your launch can be very effective. I made graphics for 10 days out, seven days, three days, tomorrow, and day of launch (I use Corel Graphics Suite, but Book Brush is a great, affordable option). I’ve used book trailers as part of this, as well as still images capturing the vibe of the book. A catchy teaser line, a few emoji thingies, and with Facebook’s new Ad Manager platform, I can set up everything on a schedule… job done. Sort of.

. . . .

I’m sure some of you know, Facebook is determined not to show Your People anything the algorithm decides might be a promotion. As soon as you add a link to an outside source, forget it — your mum and Auntie Gladys might see it, but very few of your book-buying followers ever will. Putting the link in the first comment gets you a few more eyeballs, but I’ve heard the Facebook algo machine is getting wise to that too.

Link to the rest at BookBub

The State of Social Media (As It Pertains To Writers In Particular)

From Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds:

This is a post about social media, which is the most boring kind of post. But for writers in particular, it’s an essential one. And here is why: we are at a time when traditional media is a *******************. In general, sure, but also, specifically as it relates to book stuff. You’ll find far less book coverage than you used to in years past, in part because — at least, as I understand it — a lot of outlets have reduced the staff dedicated to book-related and publishing-related topics, sometimes cutting down to the bone. Unless you’re in the one percent of authors who sell a WHOLE LOTTA BOOKS or have a book that meets a particular threshold of that hard-to-define “buzz,” (or you’re “someone who knows someone”), you’re not really going to get out there with book announcements or cover reveals or excerpts. You might hit a few end-of-the-year or beginning-of-the-year lists but… most authors don’t, won’t, can’t.

As such, publishers are leaning harder into social media as an avenue to champion books. Thing is, they’ve already leaned pretty pretty hard into social media over the years, and it makes sense: for a long time, social media has seemed like this fertile ground of virality, right? Authors get on, authors make some noise, they get followers, the followers are readers, the readers buy the books, and holy ****, it’s free? Manna from Heaven, and it doesn’t cost the publisher a dime?

One problem: it doesn’t really work like that.

As I’ve noted in the past, social media doesn’t sell books. Okay, fine, it does, but not at the level we all want it to. It moves a copy here, a copy there, ten copies, hopefully more. And that’s good. Because in a sense, every book is a pebble thrown into the pond, and it makes ripples. Ripples (readers new and familiar) reach farther shores, meaning, those readers tell other readers, and that’s a good thing. It’s not some kind of HOLY **** YOUR BOOK HAS GONE VIRAL kinda thing, but it’s a slow and steady and reliable way to earn readership.

But… publishing doesn’t really crave the slow and steady. Some publishers are good with it! Some have a wiser eye and recognize the value of a long tail. But a lot of publishers are just stuffing a catapult full of spaghetti and hoping some of it sticks to some wall, somewhere, anywhere.

I’ve long noted that part of the real value of social media for writers is the community that comes from it — a community not just of readers, but a professional one, too. We’re lonely little weirdos, and it’s nice to have a virtual watercooler-slash-campfire around which to gather. We can hang with other writers, agents, editors, and from there, artists and film people and TV people and comics folk and — well, so on and so forth. A creative community forms from this, not one that’s ever a monoculture, but that’s a good thing. It’s good that it’s this unruly, shapeless thing, because that’s what leads to more interesting friendships. (And community is, ultimately, about these friendships. Fuck anyone who talks about this as if it’s about the “connections.” Said it before, we’ll say it again, but people are not just rungs in a ladder.)

So, does it work this way still?

Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

How Author Platform Connects to Author Brand

From Jane Friedman:

Certain words and phrases are bandied about all the time in publishing, but they don’t always make sense. One of the biggest is author platform. You may have attended enough writing seminars and conferences to recognize that even people in publishing aren’t consistently using the term.

How and where authors reach readers: that’s platform. It’s a combination of four factors, and let’s use the TV show Gilmore Girls to help visualize it.

  • Message: an announcement shouted to the citizens of Stars Hollow from the gazebo
  • Target Audience: the Stars Hollow citizens gathered to hear it
  • Platform Tools: the gazebo and the directional signs to it
  • Brand Elements: the gazebo they see and experience
  • If your message and tools are built effectively, those in your target audience will be so invested in your platform, they will personally deliver that message to anyone drinking coffee with Lorelai and Rory at Luke’s Diner.

If you need to run off and watch a few episodes to understand my analogy, I’ll wait here. For those who have already seen the show, let’s start with the author message…

Author message (the announcement from the gazebo)

I know you have something to say. You wrote a book! But your author message is not the subject of that book. Rather, your author message is tied to why you wrote that book.

For instance, my first novel, Carrying Independence, is about a guy hired to help gather the final signatures on the Declaration of Independence. But why I wrote this story has nothing to do with the document. I firmly believe we can learn about ourselves by traveling and engaging in history.

Sure, other authors are also motivated by one or both of those things, but when I couple my belief with my particular brand of humor and unbridled nerdy enthusiasm, my author message becomes intrinsically mine. It becomes my purpose, and one my readers can experience with me. They can #TravelWithAdventure while #ChasingHistories, too.

For some authors, the reason they write is to provide an escape. For others, it may be to debunk faulty thinking. Once you define your message, you must figure out how to share your message.

Target audience (the citizens gathering around the gazebo)

These are the loyal readers most likely to gather around your gazebo (real or virtual). If you are a young adult (YA) author, yet your Twitter feed and primary contacts are moms and librarians, you’re not speaking directly to your readers. Or, as I said to a YA author with this problem, your target audience of teenagers is talking about books in the cafeteria while you’re hanging out in the teachers’ lounge sounding like a boring grown-up. Yes, librarians recommend books, but authors should connect with the bullseye of their target—the people most likely to jam their noses into your book and who will then turn to their friend and say, “You also have to jam your nose into this book.”

Your readers hang out in certain places online and physically. They have other books, magazines, movies, vocabulary, and activities they love (or hate). For example, if you write Georgian romances, your readers are likely women ages 16 to 65 who read Jane Austen, follow Colin Firth, know the difference between corsets and stays, and might be members of Regency societies.

Platform tools (the gazebo and directional signs to it)

If all you have is a gazebo from which to sell your book, your readers will consist of only those citizens who happen to come to the town square. That means you need to think bigger, broader. A platform tool is anything a reader will engage with that comes from you. If they can see it, touch it, or hear it, it’s a platform tool. If you’re a cookbook author or your novel includes recipes in the back, your loyal readers may even taste it!

Tools, like directional signage pointing to the gazebo, are the means by which your target audience finds and engages with you. What are your primary tools? Your book(s), website, and newsletter. You also have social media, advertising, publicity, presentations, and even printed materials such as bookmarks and business cards.

However, not all platform tools are effective at capturing your particular target audience. YA readers are less likely to be on Facebook than on Instagram, for example. And AARP events and retirement communities won’t be ideal places for middle-grade authors to give presentations.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG never watched The Gilmore Girls, but the OP seemed more than a little saccharin and gimmicky for him. He’ll rely on others to comment on how effective the metaphors in the OP are.

Does Anyone Want to Come to My Book Signing? Please!

From The Wall Street Journal:

Years after she started writing her debut novel, Chelsea Banning settled into Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio, on a Saturday in early December for her first author signing.

She waited with neatly stacked paperback copies of her book, “Of Crowns and Legends”—which she calls a King Arthur reimagining that takes place 20 years after his death. She had props, including a crown, a little statue of a knight kneeling and holding a pen, and pictures of friends dressed as her characters, in medieval garb.

The 33-year-old librarian in Girard, Ohio, whose real name is Chelsea Vandergrift Podgorny, was optimistic. Friends in the area said they wanted to stop by and have their books signed, and 37 people responded to the Facebook event listing that they would attend.

During her three-hour signing, just two people showed up.

The next morning, Ms. Banning tweeted to her roughly 100 followers that she was “pretty bummed about it…upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.” She felt a little sheepish after writing the tweet and planned to remove it, she recalls in an interview. She didn’t want the no-shows to feel bad.

Then, Henry Winkler chimed in. Yes, The Fonz himself.

“That is the beginning,” the star wrote, retweeting her post to his one million followers. “Then word gets out and they come!”

She isn’t sure how, but her online confession had gone viral and was ricocheting around the arts and literary world. Thousands were retweeting it, including big-name authors. She had exposed a truth of the publishing business. Lonely events are a rite of passage for authors.

“Join the club,” Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and many other books, responded. “I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)”

Stephen King—the king of horror himself—jumped in, writing, “Dear Chelsea Banning: When you do your next signing, let us know. We’ll let EVERYBODY know.”

In an interview, Mr. Winkler says Ms. Banning’s tweet struck a familiar chord. In 2003, he held an event at a book store promoting the first installment in the Hank Zipzer children’s book series he wrote with Lin Oliver. It was billed as a reading and a chance to meet Henry Winkler. Six people came. “It doesn’t get easier,” Mr. Winkler says.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz says one person, a friend, attended his first reading as a published author. “I did a reading for my friend and the embarrassed booksellers and called it a win,” he says by email.

Jodi Picoult, who has sold millions of copies of her books, says once, at a signing at her hometown bookstore in Hanover, N.H., she sat alone until a wandering patron needed help finding the bathroom.

Paul Bogaards, who ran publicity campaigns for 30 years at publisher Alfred A. Knopf and now runs his own company, says the in-store author appearance is, in large part, a holdover from a time when they generated local-news coverage. As local news has shrunk, filling seats is harder.

This hasn’t diminished the author’s desire to pitch books in the flesh, Mr. Bogaards says in an email, “if only for one person eating a Twix bar in the front row.”

The same day Ms. Banning signed books to a sparse audience in Ohio, Jon Land was at the Rhode Island Author Expo promoting his new thriller, “Blood Moon,” which he wrote with Heather Graham.

More than 100 area authors spread across a hotel ballroom, waiting at tables laden with books, and lures to entice browsers.

Mr. Land, who has written dozens of books, deployed one of his regular sales tools—free candy. The children come over and take some, he says, and parents feel guilty and buy a book. But the best way to get customers to engage at a signing, he advises, is to bring a child yourself.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Quite a long time ago, 50,000 years BA (Before Amazon), while living in a suburb of a mid-sized city, PG attended some book signings featuring popular authors that drew a large crowd.

He doesn’t remember exactly how many channels his television could tune in at that time, but he thinks he could have counted them on one hand. It was between seasons for the local high school team, so a book signing by a famous author was the only thing happening other than reruns of The Cosby Show.

In the somewhat distant past, PG participated in some book signings. Even back when, flop-sweat is not a comfortable experience.

If an author’s time is worth anything, forgetting about book signings is the only rational decision.

Open Road Media: A New Version of Its Marketing Offer

From Publishing Perspectives:

Our Publishing Perspectives readers may remember our announcement in July that New York City-based Open Road Integrated Media had begun offering a service beyond its core “Ignition” marketing plan called Open Road Activation.

Late in the day on Thursday (January 11), the company messaged the news media that it has opened its new year with an updated version of the new offer called “Activation 2.0,” which is being referred to as a “redesign” of the July “Activation” product.

Although Open Road is seated in the States, the service is open to international publishers, with the one caveat that most of its consumer base—which by last summer reportedly comprised  some 3 million users—reads in English. In July, we were old that publishers in the United Kingdom were utilizing the company’s original “Ignition” program quite regularly, and Open Road’s personnel in the past have been at London Book Fair (this year, April 18 to 20).

The summer release of “Activation” stepped up the original “Ignition” offering to allow publishers to choose D2C (direct to consumer) components both from the company’s existing newsletters and from those newsletters’ associated sites. Open Road says its visitors to those sites are providing 1.2 million monthly page views, with stickiness at close to four minutes for the average visit. “Classic mystery” seems to be the main draw, followed by social and military history. And overall, the Open Road marketing scheme has developed as one of the most advanced uses of consumer data for retail outreach based in an independent company, as opposed to being seated in a given publishing house’s own marketing offices.

Descriptive text about “Activation 2.0” indicates that its key advantage is segmentation of the user base on the receiving end of Open Road’s marketing pieces. “Countless” specific segments, the company’s material says, “are available to be engaged, from readers of classic mystery, cyberpunk, and military history to vegan cooking, middle grade, Christian nonfiction, book club reads,” and more. 

Examples of what Open Road calls “hyper-specific segments” include neuroscience, birds of prey, ancient Greek history, mixed martial arts, and “Parisian enthusiast.” 

What may be of interest here is that Amazon reportedly has, since the autumn, appeared to be limiting to three the number of categories in which a book might be ranked. A publisher might think of “Activation 2.0’s” segmentation as a way to reach at least the Open Road consumer marketing base with a broader range of categories and “hyper-specific segments.”

Open Road says that the first iteration of “Activation” has been used by “Big Five imprints [including] Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, Harper, Flatiron, St. Martin’s, Tor, and Knopf, as well as independent  publishers and university presses [including] Sourcebooks, Astra Publishing House, Hearst Books, Blackstone, Soho  Press, and Yale University Press.”

What may be just as interesting to publishers as categorization in “Activation 2.0” is a new feature that Open Road says allows choices of specific points of emphasis such as “title awareness” and the less concise phrase “performance plus.” 

Activation 2.0 also offers email placements “enabling publishers to build or sustain momentum on individual titles by slotting them into targeted ‘Spotlight’ emails featuring 10 titles each.”

There are also options in display advertising in the company’s D2C newsletters–with an option of similar ad placement on each newsletter’s associated site. On those associated sites, publishers can also consider co-branded home-page takeovers, certainly one of the most successful techniques for annoying one’s users yet developed in the digital world, guaranteeing at least momentary visibility while the cursing user searches for the “X” to close the takeover.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG’s reaction is that there are a lot of much bigger businesses that provide much better segmenting that he thinks is going to be delivered by the company mentioned in the OP.

Amazon, Google and Facebook come immediately to mind. PG would be happy to hear from any others who know more about what Open Road is actually doing.

PG went to their home page and was massively underwhelmed. He couldn’t find any free online analytics site that could tell him anything about how many people go to/search for the company.

The Book Community Thought This Author Died. Now, It Seems Her Suicide Was a Hoax.

From Rolling Stone:

NOTHING GOOD STARTS in a Facebook group. The Ward, a reading group founded by Tennessee-based author Susan Meachen, largely went dormant after a September 2020 post — supposedly written by her daughter — was shared from her page announcing that she had died by suicide following bullying and harassment from members of the book community. Now, more than two years later, Meachen has decided that she wants her life back and returned to Facebook to reveal that she was never actually dead in the first place.

“I debated on how to do this a million times and still not sure if it’s right or not,” Meachen wrote in her back-from-the-dead return to the group on Jan. 2. “My family did what they thought was best for me and I can’t fault them for it. I almost died again at my own hand and they had to go through all that hell again. Returning to The Ward doesn’t mean much but I am in a good place now and I am hoping to write again. Let the fun begin.” (Meachen did not immediately return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)

Fun isn’t exactly the word that springs to mind for those in the book community who had befriended Meachen and were shocked by her death. “We grieved for the loss of the woman we considered a friend,” wrote Samantha A. Cole, a fellow author who regularly chatted with Meachen online, in a receipt-filled post exposing the details behind the suicide hoax. “I personally was harassed by another author who loves to create drama, claiming I was one of the authors who bullied Susan and drove her to suicide.”

Cole said that, after Meachen’s alleged death, she beat herself up over not having reached out sooner, wondering if it might have made a difference. Having lost other people in her life to suicide, it weighed heavily on her. But she got a second chance to reach out to Meachen after she commented on the author’s comeback post in The Ward asking if the entire story had been made up, only to be invited to message her privately instead.

Cole’s first question, shared in screenshots, drew from her disbelief and confusion: “What is going on????” Meachen wrote back an hour later with less urgency. “Nothing,” she responded, as if she didn’t just spend two years pretending to be dead. “I simply want my life back. My family was in a bad place and did what they thought was best for me.”

Link to the rest at Rolling Stone and thanks to T. for the tip.

PG suggests that, even if you’ve always wanted to see an article in Rolling Stone about yourself, setting up a fake suicide is not the best way to do it.

This applies to authors and everyone else.

The Author-Creator Marketing Playbook

From Jane Friedman:

During my first full year of publishing, I made almost $200. I had three books in my catalogue and dabbled in Amazon Ads. In 2019, I made $412 publishing three more books. In 2020, I had my breakout year, generating $7,500 in revenue for my business. I was ecstatic. I had several months where I made $1,000 a row and I published six new books that year.

But something darker happened.

Almost all of that $7,500 in revenue went to Facebook and Amazon Ads. In fact, I spent $2,000 out of pocket just testing ads to get things working for my series. And once I got them working, I often had to spend 20+ hours a week managing them.

It was stressful—anxiety-inducing, in fact. At the time I thought it was the only way I could make it as an author. And I was willing to do whatever it took to turn my dreams into reality.

That was until I burned out. Suddenly it felt like I was writing more just to hit my next release than because I had a story to tell. I started to miss my deadlines, until I ultimately stopped midway through the next draft of my book.

But something else happened during this time, another algorithmic force leading me to my burnout. It was YouTube. I had started uploading vlogs to my YouTube channel in September 2020. By November 2020, I had nearly half a million views on the channel alone during that month and made almost $2,000 in Google AdSense. I also made several hundred dollars selling my books with no ads and no calls-to-action during my videos.

What followed was the greatest rollercoaster I have ever experienced. I started creating content to try and garner as many views as possible. I garnered 2 million views on my first two weeks on TikTok and started traveling the country to meet celebrities, taking the third door to access opportunities that ranged from meeting Elon Musk’s executive assistant to kayaking to the back of Joe Rogan’s house and on accident meeting one of the largest concert promoters in the world. I also started live streaming for a start-up platform run by Sean Parker, creating 1,000 hours of content on the platform.

This sounds like everything was going splendidly. But in reality, I didn’t have a broader creator strategy. I was simply a content producer, chasing the algorithmic highs and feeling despondent and, at times, worthless during the algorithmic lows.

. . . .

Pillar #1: Create where your readers hang out, but not everywhere your readers hang out.

For the longest time, I felt a pressure to be creating in “hot spaces” where everyone was getting all these sales in. But I realized that if I don’t typically consume content there, then there is a low-chance that I’ll enjoy creating there.

Some authors, particularly romance authors, may be reading this and saying to themselves, “I hate TikTok, but my readers love it!” That is a fair statement. But creating content where your readers hang out does not mean creating content everywhere. Romance readers have formed massive communities on virtually every social platform and consume content in almost every format. Specific subgenres, of course, are more predominant in specific spaces. But I would imagine that a podcast directed to a specific audience of romance readers could do really well, such as Heaving Bosoms, which has over 700 people paying them monthly for exclusive access to some episodes in their subscription program.

The key here is that although many target audiences exist in multiple locations on the internet, it is rare that an author has the bandwidth at the early stages in their career to create in multiple formats. Thus, it’s essential to pick a content format and continue leveling up and growing your audience until, if ever, you’d like to expand into other formats.

. . . .

Pillar #2: Create what you love, but have it be integral to your world.

If you take nothing else away from these pillars, remember to always make it fun. The idea of being an author-creator when marketing your books is to make the discovery process fun, not something that feels like a chore.

Creating content should be creative, something that enhances the worlds you are building instead of being a distraction. And if done correctly, it can be a fertile testing ground to see what new story ideas, characters, and problems your readers are most interested in.

However, many authors can sometimes have fun creating content that is, well, maybe not related to things their target audience is interested in. Or even more nefarious, things that their target audience is interested in, but doesn’t help authors build their unique brand.

The Tilt is a publication all about the creator economy started by Joe Pulizzi, one of the foremost experts on content marketing. The reason it’s called the Tilt is because each creator has to have a unique tilt or edge, if you will, over the competition in order to succeed.

What does this mean?

Well, let’s say you love creating true crime podcasts and you are a thriller author. Your true crime podcasts are maybe specifically focused on serial killers in the Southern United States. You have niched down your audience pretty well here and are likely appealing to law enforcement as well as true crime junkies in the South.

Yet, even with that niche there are dozens of podcasts that regularly focus on topics for this audience, such as Southern Fried True Crime. In order to succeed, you need to be able to do something different, whether that is combining two existing styles you love, niching down even further, or having some unique value-add that no one else in your market is providing.

Ideally, this content tilt is baked into the value proposition of your larger brand. The same things your readers will love about the things you write are hopefully the same kinds of things that can separate you from the pack and get people interested in your content. Tilting authentically is the key to being able to build a sustainable business as an author-creator: building a world that is true to you, has the potential to evolve and grow with time, and has many entry points for new fans, all centered around your stories.

. . . .

Pillar #3: Create how you want. Seriously, you write the rules.

I’m here to give you permission to post whenever you damn want. In the world of the creator economy, it’s all about building your dream. Not listening to the cookie-cutter advice of gurus that at times don’t have your best interests at heart. With that said, with each content format in the paragraphs below, I’ll detail best practices and why it’s probably useful to post short-form content more often than, say, podcasts for the purpose of discovery.

However, even the best practices are just guidelines. They don’t stipulate how often you need to post to tickle a specific algorithm just right. Instead, I’m focused on the psychology of cold audiences who discover your content and how to convert them into warmer leads (aka fans) that begin to look forward to your content. It’s this slow building flywheel that can lead to exponential growth due to cumulative effects.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

How Will BookTok Change Publishing in 2023?

From Rolling Stone:

RIGHT NOW, ONE of the biggest hubs in the book world isn’t a city, or a Manhattan high-rise, or even one particular publishing house — it’s TikTok.

BookTok, a TikTok community of readers, reviewers, and authors, has redefined publishing’s relationship with book content creators. Since its rise in popularity in 2020, the group has been directly responsible for millions of book sales, hundreds of trending conversations around new releases, and an organic word-of-mouth marketing structure that has publishing entities desperate to get a piece of the action. White romance authors in particular, like Ali Hazlewood, Sarah J. Mass, and Taylor Jenkins Reid, have become (or remained) industry giants because of BookTok support — in 2022, BookTok darling Colleen Hoover even outsold the Bible by at least 3 million units. But a new wave of growth from BookTok has seen less prioritized issues like compensation, diversity, and collaboration with publishers become major sticking points. Yet BookTok creators say that while the community continues to have a bigger footprint in the book world, a failure to diversify could mean its eventual downfall.

. . . .

Marines Alvarez, a creator who has been focused on the book world for almost 12 years, describes BookTok as a wholly unique venture for book creators — one that uses discoverability and community interactions to set itself apart from other iterations like Bookstagram and BookTube.

“It’s so interesting to be involved in a community that’s more or less nascent,” Marines says. “[BookTok] is growing up a bit in terms of the discourse and conversations that we’re having, about like consumership and responsibility to an audience. It’s really exciting to see a community find its feet in that regard.”

While BookTok as a community has been around for a couple of years, it’s only recently that the group has been recognized for its tangible impact on publishing. In November, FutureBook, a publishing trade conference, named BookTook as its Person of the Year, noting that creators’ passion for books has directly impacted millions in sales. Kevin Norman, a creator who focuses on LGBTQ+ works, says a staying power of BookTok is that it’s easy for creators to tailor their content to a specific niche or subset of books — which can often push already-published books back on top of best-seller lists.

Link to the rest at Rolling Stone

A Judge Said Movie Studios Can Be Sued For False Advertising In Trailers After A Pair Of Ana De Armas Fans Filed A Federal Lawsuit

From BuzzFeed News:

Two Ana de Armas fans can continue their lawsuit against Universal Pictures after a federal judge ruled Tuesday that movie studios can be sued over false advertising in film trailers.

Conor Woulfe, who is from Maryland, and Peter Michael Rosza of San Diego County, California, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterday on Amazon Prime because de Armas appeared in the film’s trailer. They were disappointed to find she wasn’t in the film and have since January been pursuing a $5 million lawsuit as representatives of a class of movie customers who were deceived by the trailer.

On Tuesday, they cleared a hurdle when US District Judge Stephen Wilson issued an order rejecting Universal’s attempt to dismiss the entire case.

Universal had argued that the lawsuit should be thrown out because movie trailers should be protected under the First Amendment. They called the trailer an “artistic, expressive work” that conveys the theme of the film — not simply a commercial that would be covered by rules against false advertising.

“What is obvious about trailers generally and the Yesterday trailer in particular: they are expressive works in their own right and may not be relegated to a class of ‘purely commercial’ speech that receives watered-down First Amendment protection,” lawyers for Universal argued in a motion.

Lawyers for Woulfe and Rosza, meanwhile, said the two have never seen an actor present in a trailer who wasn’t also in the film. The judge allowed their allegations that Universal had violated California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws to continue to move forward in court.

. . . .

Yesterday, which was released in 2019, follows a struggling musician (Himesh Patel) who wakes up in an alternate reality where the Beatles never existed.

De Armas was initially set to have a major role in the film as part of a love triangle involving Patel and Lily James, but writer Richard Curtis told Cinemablend that she was cut out after test audiences expressed distaste for Patel ​​straying away from James.

Link to the rest at BuzzFeed News

One lesson for indie authors is to accurately depict what your book is about in your book description. This definitely doesn’t require that your book description be boring, but don’t promise what your book doesn’t deliver.

So PG doesn’t frighten anyone, in the OP, the idiot promoters included a actress who is evidently some sort of star in the advertising for the movie when the actress made no appearance in the final produce being advertised.

This wasn’t what courts often call “mere puffery” in advertising, e.g., “You’ll be shocked at the surprise ending,” when more than one reader can predict how the book will end.

Digitizing ‘Christmas Books’ at the UK’s Cambridge University Press

From Public Books:

In an interesting point of irony, Cambridge University Press’ 34 “Christmas Books” series was started by university printer Walter Lewis in the early 1930s, in hopes of showing off the press’ printing and design skills as the British economy slowed. And now, just in time for another economic downturn—as well as for the holiday season, of course—these highly specialized editions, “privately printed at the University Press,” have been digitized by the press to preserve a remarkable collection of limited editions.

These are not Christmas books in the sense of titles themed on Christmas. They’re called the press’ Christmas books because they were given to industry associates and customers at Christmas, in no small part as promotional pieces.

In most cases, only some 100 copies were made of a single title, and all of them were given away to “friends in printing and publishing.”

This meant that Cambridge University Press itself didn’t have a complete set of these rare editions, the last of which was produced in 1973. Starting in 2014, the press has been working to pull together a complete set of its own, drawing on “a mixture of donations and detective work.”

Ros Grooms, the press’ archivist says, “The books were published for a long time, with a pause for the Second World War, and demonstrate real excellence in the way they are put together. They aren’t showy, but all the signs of quality in printing, typography and design would have been obvious to the people receiving them.

“Great care was taken over the books but their secret was really in the experience and skill of the press’ compositors and printers. People were chosen to work on the books in recognition of their skill and they worked together to produce something really special.

“Looking through the pages, it’s easy to imagine the pleasure that these little books would have given to someone opening one for the first time at Christmas.”

In most cases, the books have a connection with Cambridge. Brooke Crutchley Walter Lewis as university printer in 1946, and continued the tradition of producing the books which, by then, had gathered a reputation. About a third of them reprint historical texts and most, of course, are related to printing and publishing since the intent was to demonstrate the company’s capabilities.

Gavin Swanson, who last year left the press’ academic publishing group—and now is editorial development manager in the journals division—was instrumental in searching out the books.

“Initially, I got a list of the books that we didn’t have and used that,” he says, “together with what was essentially a catalogue, containing a couple of paragraphs of description for each of the Christmas books, their titles and a list of illustrations.

“I would trawl through the sites of book dealers to find the missing volumes and finally came up with an original copy of the last book we needed, 1939’s From London to Cambridge by Train, just before I left the press, so I snaffled it as quickly as I could and that thankfully completed the collection.”

“These are an important piece of our heritage,” Grooms says, “and we are very grateful to Gavin for his hard work and to all those who kindly donated what must have been much-loved items, to allow us to preserve them for many Christmases to come.”

The press’ digital content team made archive-quality photos of the books and their slipcases that were made for many of the books.

Some of the volumes were photographed on a conservation cradle at higher resolution than others, including the “lift-the-flaps” Bridges on the Backs pictured at the top of this article.

Johanna Ward from the digital content team is quoted, saying, “The majority are robust enough to be digitized on a book cradle, which supports the book to allow for the high-resolution digitization of two pages at once, while not applying much pressure to its structure. … Archival photography is based on specific color calibration methods to faithfully reproduce the book as seen. We’re also digitizing at a ratio of 1:1 and so the image should also be a faithful reproduction of the size of the book.”

She points out that a file from such work isn’t as large as it might have been because these books aren’t large.

. . . .

Publishing Perspectives has asked Cambridge University Press how to see the digitized collection of Christmas books, and unfortunately the archive has yet to post the collection to its site, although they have approached the news media for coverage.

We’ve asked the company to let us know when it’s available, and we’ll revisit and update this story when they have the collection ready for viewing on the archive, perhaps on a Christmas Future.

Link to the rest at Public Books

From the murky attics of PG’s mind, an old advertising slogan appeared as he considered the inability of the Cambridge University Press’ to provide a peek at their Christmas book collection, despite of the huge number of books purchased as holiday gifts during this season and the attractiveness of the idea of giving someone a book from the Cambridge University Press Christmas book collection.

(Yes, PG realizes that the previous sentence/paragraph is overlong, but he was thinking of a 40+ year old advertising campaign for Paul Masson wine. The campaign featured Orson Wells and his delivery of the company’s slogan was epic. “We will sell no wine before its time.”

Blurb Matters: A Quiet Manifesto

From Jane Friedman:

Say he wants a blurb, he wants it bad. He’ll give you less than a week to read a rushed PDF,  and the thing is, you hardly know him. Decades before, maybe, and as a favor to his editor, you wrote a boosting paragraph after his first book launched, but you’re pretty sure that doesn’t mean you’re friends.

Still, his need is urgent—you feel the pulse of desperation beneath the skin of his email. You say yes when you shouldn’t. You claw at your schedule, make reading time. You’re only a few grudging chapters in when you know the trouble you’re in. The blurb-seeker’s book is self-absorbed, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing, without beauty, and to protect your own name, to defend your own ethos, you must step aside. You must let the author know, and soon. You must write the kindest possible declination, and swallowing hard, you do.

Maybe this is hypothetical. Maybe it is true. But let’s continue on. Let’s say your no is not well received. Let’s say you become—increasingly—the object of the blurb-seeker’s ire. Let’s say the whole affair becomes so preposterous—your refusal to engage escalating his anger, his anger escalating into threats—that when you finally shut his emails down and step away, you’re left wondering what this thing is anyway, this thing we call the blurb?

A blurb is an advert, a puff, a commendation, a gloss, according to various dictionary definitions. Or, in the words of Rachel Donadio, writing years ago for The New York Times, blurbs “represent a tangled mass of friendships, rivalries, favors traded and debts repaid, not always in good faith.” Indeed. But how are we to manage them? What place are they to have in our literary lives? Is a blurb an obligation? An apprehension? A price? A prize?

I have, over the course of my writing life, done a lousy job of taking a definitive stance on blurbs. I have been inconsistent and hypocritical, grateful and suspicious, honored and unsure, careful and compromised. I have blurbed books I’ve loved for people I’ve loved and been humbled by the pleasure. I have said no when I should have said yes (I am so sorry). I’ve written blurbs for books I didn’t fully understand, and I’ve written blurbs that were elbowed out of use on account of the blurbs proffered by writers more sexy and glam than I am (but then why was I asked in the first place?). I have died a thousand deaths asking for blurbs for books of my own, then opened emails from dear friends saying, Please, ask me for a blurb. Then received the kindest blurb. Then stood in my office and looked all around—incapable of locating just the right words to express my gratitude.

I have been fazed by the giving and fazed by the taking, and I have been—equally—shamed.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

7 Ways Public Readings Can Help Your Writing

From Writer Unboxed:

It is 2002 and I am sitting in a packed audience at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference listening to Margot Livesey read the first chapter from her work-in-progress, Banishing Verona. We are almost 30 minutes in, and although that’s long for a public reading, I am entranced.

So far, we’ve learned that a pregnant woman has shown up at the door of a home being renovated by Zeke, an autistic handyman. Claiming to be the niece of the house owner, this woman charms her way into the house, dons a pair of coveralls to earn Zeke’s trust, and eventually shares his bed. He has gotten up early to go out and get them breakfast, and because he has given her his only key, he has to climb back in through a window. As he returns to the bedroom, he decides that however stupid it will sound at this point, he is going to ask her name.

Livesey has me. I’m hanging on every word.

Then she reads:

The bed was unmade, empty and cold to the touch, the suitcases gone. At the foot of the bed the rug was rolled up, and spread-eagled on the bare wooden boards lay the coveralls, neatly buttoned, arms and legs stretched wide, like an empty person. Only when he knelt to pick them up did Zeke discover the three-inch nails that skewered the collar, pinned the cuffs and ankles to the floor.

What??? Judging by the audible gasp—followed by groans when Livesey then closed her folder—I wasn’t the only one in the room who had questions.

Conclusion #1: Don’t sate the audience; readings that raise questions earn readers.

Once I got home from the conference, I looked for that novel in every single bookstore I entered until 2004, when Banishing Verona finally came out.

I had a similar reaction when hearing Ann Patchett read from her then-newest, Bel Canto, at the same event. I leaned toward the woman beside me and whispered, “This reading is extraordinary.” She leaned back and said, “And this wasn’t even one of my favorite parts.” After the reading, I went right to the campus bookstore and bought the novel.

And here I am, still talking about both of those readings 20 years later.

Such can be the power of a public reading.

Conclusion #2: A memorable reading can result in sales—even if the author hasn’t yet finished writing the book.

The Sewanee Conference is big on readings by novelists, poets, playwrights, and short story writers; they have a space devoted to it that’s fully booked. I was surprised to see there was always an audience and I aimed to find out why. After listening to as many readings as possible over the course of the conference’s 12 days, I came to understand more about myself as a person, a reader, a listener, and a writer. I learned what kind of opening tends to beg my interest. What makes me laugh, what doesn’t. What can, in rather short order, move me to tears.

As the readings accumulated I saw that in novel writing, as in my previous career as a dance critic, I needed to trust my experience and appreciate my subjectivity.

Conclusion #3: Exposure to a wide variety of public readings can help a writer identify what kind of novels they aspire to write.

Seeing the benefit of this, as president of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, I worked with a local theater company to bring in patrons on one of their “dark” nights to present a literary night out we called The Writers’ Soiree. Members signed up ahead of time for a limited number of ten-minute slots, and the evening ended with an open mic offering shorter slots to anyone present. We brought wine, and a nearby bakery provided treats that we sold at intermission. A huge bonus for our budding novelists was the immediacy of having strangers come up to them to say how much they enjoyed their reading.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG will include three sacrilegious statements in his reaction to the OP.

  1. These days, author readings (typically in bookstores) are a waste of time and energy for most authors. If the author is already famous, lots of people show up. If the author is unknown, a handful appear at the time and place of the reading — not the best morale booster for an author just starting out. Author readings are a 1970’s marketing tool.
  2. As a group, writers tend toward introversion. For an introvert, reading her own creation in the presence of a bunch of strangers tends to be extremely stressful, especially when the same stressful experience happens night after night on a book tour. It’s something an extrovert might like, but it’s torture for many introverts to bear their writing souls and make themselves vulnerable in front of a group of people they don’t know. It’s also taking time away from their writing and the exhausted aftermath of one-night stands in store after store, may require a long, non-writing rest to recover.
  3. If a reading of a portion of a book is thought to be a good sales promotion tool for a bookstore and a book (not necessarily true), hire a trained performer to do the reading. The author can chat with visitors one-by-one and sign their books before and after the performance. A local actor/actress/speech teacher will do a better job of presenting the written word than an author who last recited anything for a school Christmas pageant when she/he was in third grade. Give the actress the task in advance to let her read the book and talk to the author via phone or email about which parts the actress thinks would work best.

PG would bet that an experiment with an author reading one segment of a book and an actress presenting another segment of the book would reveal the actress made more of an impact on the audience than the author did. The performance by an actress would also sell more books than the author could by herself.

Right after the War of 1812 ended, PG attended college with several students who went on to successful stage/television/movie careers. He’s seen people who had the ability to mesmerize an audience with their talent up close.

Plus, unlike most normal people, performers enjoy performing before groups of people; the larger the group, the better.

End of sacrilege.

On Writing Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

How do you sum up a whole book in a few words?

Your book is nearly ready to enter the world. You’ve got a title, a cover, even some endorsements. Then, something you’d almost forgotten rears its head: the jacket copy (or, as we call it in Britain, the blurb). It’s often an afterthought in the publishing process; the dowdy cousin to the dazzle of a cover design. But those few words can make a world of difference to a book’s fortunes. 

So how do you encapsulate your work in a way that is enticing? That creates instant appeal, a sense of place and character, mystery and intrigue, and makes anyone who picks it up think ‘I must have this book in my life, now’? (No pressure then). 

I have been a copywriter in publishing for over twenty-five years, and I know how hard it can be to find the right words. I began my career at Penguin Books, where there used to be an entire department dedicated to writing blurbs. There, in a quiet room lined with shelf upon shelf of books, we read, yes actually read at work, and learned how to distil thousands of words into just a few. Times have changed since those halcyon days, and we are folded into various marketing departments at what is now Penguin Random House. But is still our job to make every word count. 

. . . .

A professional copywriter is always thinking of their audience. At many publishing houses, blurbs are written by authors or editors or both. However, someone like me can bring a fresh eye to things. It’s hard to see the wood for the trees when a book has been part of your life for months, maybe years – some authors even say that writing the blurb is harder than writing the book. Here are some things I’ve learned: 

  1. Don’t leave your blurb until the last minute. Terry Pratchett recommended writing it as soon as possible because ‘getting the heart and soul of a book into fewer than 100 words helps you focus.’ I wrote one alongside my proposal. It forced me to think hard about the point of my book. 
  2. Identifying the core of your work can be an anchor for the rest of the blurb. The novelist Elizabeth Buchan, who used to write copy at Penguin, described it as ‘The backbone. In one sentence, what is it that makes that book that book? I wrote Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman. Its backbone was: “living well is the best revenge”.’ Buchan’s line snaps with the tension of opposing forces. Where does that fizz lie in your book? 

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

Planning a book event for 2023? Go hybrid

From The Bookseller:

Hybrid festivals are here to stay – that’s what disabled and chronically ill authors want, after having access to online literary festivals and events during the pandemic. Increasingly the whole writing community is backing that call. That’s why team #KeepFestivalsHybrid and team Inklusion have joined forces to create an online guide to 2023 hybrid literary festivals – and we need festival organisers to tell us their plans.

As co-founder of the #KeepFestivalsHybrid campaign along with publisher Clare Christian, I’ve spoken to so many DCI authors for whom online access has transformed their lives and careers, giving them opportunities to network with other authors, and speak at and attend events. One such writer, Chloe Timms, author of The Seawomen, commented: “I love in-person events as much as anyone but virtual events throughout the pandemic made the literary world more accessible. There’s no reason not to have the best of both worlds for readers and writers.”

This year has seen a clarion call for hybrid events across the publishing profession. Cryptic Arts has published Being Hybrid, a guide to what hybrid events are, their benefits and basic technology for hosting them. Director Jamie Hale describes the guide as explaining “the cheapest and fastest way of offering online as well as offline access to events.” 

. . . .

 “Access should be an integrated, organic framework – the skeleton around which event provision is built, rather than a peripheral facet or last-minute add-on. We want to see event organisers using the guide, taking the onus off disabled authors and audience members. We hope the Inklusion Guide will help make good access the norm.”

A report from The Audience Agency in September 2021, called Focus on Disability, concluded that when it comes to arts activities, “disabled people have been more engaged with digital and look likely to be into the future, but this is in substantial part due to the barriers faced with in-person attendance.” The Agency says the report “highlights the importance of continuing digital channels, since removing these would compound the injustice.” But how can literary festivals market their hybrid events to their target audiences?

It’s not easy for a potential festival-goer to find out whether their local literary festival has a hybrid element, or to discover others that do.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

While reading the OP, it occurred that a someone watching the digital side of a hybrid book festival saw something about a book which attracted her/him and wanted to buy that book, by far the easiest thing to do would be to purchase it online instead of traveling to a local physical bookstore only to find it didn’t have any copies of the book.

Latvian Literature at Frankfurt: When Introversion is a Bold Choice

From Publishing Perspectives:

To be internationally recognized for its award-winning #IAmIntrovert campaign, Latvian literature—and its platform of that name—will be touting some distinctly extroverted success at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

. . . .

The state-supported platform is designed not only to promote international recognition for Latvian writings and talents but also to offer translation grants to publishers and translators; present cultural programming abroad; lead Latvia’s participation at international book fairs and trade shows; and organize literary visits to Riga.

But with almost poetic irony, all this friendly outreach and sociable interaction with world markets is now buoyed on the internationally popular #IAmIntrovert dynamic.

To quote from the ‘#IAmIntrovert manifest’: “Latvians can feel deeply confused when kissed on both cheeks or when suddenly talked to on a public bus or tram. If someone compliments a Latvian, he will turn red-white-red,” a subtle reference to the colors of the Latvian flag. “Latvia is one of the world’s most introverted nations and so are our writers, of course. And we’re proud of that. We allow our books to speak for us, since literature is the perfect world for introverts.”

Latvian Literature’s representative Ildze Jansone tells Publishing Perspectives, “When the #IAmIntrovert campaign was launched in 2016, it mainly targeted UK publishers, audiences, and media prior to the London Book Fair of 2018,” at which the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were the show’s combined Market Focus.

“Now the ongoing campaign,” she says, “targets  anyone who loves literature. Our initial marketing campaign has become the strongest brand for promoting Latvian literature.”

And as it turns out, Jansone says, genuine cultural context underlies the success of the brand.

One upshot of the durable popularity of #IAmIntrovert is that Latvia’s writers and illustrators aren’t the only ones receiving accolades for their work—so is the campaign itself and the platform.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

How To Add More Amazon Categories To Your Book Or Ebook

From Just Publishing Advice:

Do you know that you can add more Amazon categories to your book?

You can only select two categories when you first publish your book or ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

But these are not Amazon categories. They are BISACS (Book Industry Standards and Communications) headings.

If you want your new book to be much more visible, you can add up to ten new categories to make your book more discoverable by Amazon book buyers.

. . . .

How to add more Amazon categories to your book

You could use category keywords in the past.

But the only way now is to ask Amazon to add your new categories.

Why would you want to do this?

When you list your book in only two BISACS headings, it’s lost in a sea of thousands upon thousands of other books.

There is almost no way your book can climb high enough to rank in the top 100 books.

If you list your book in Fiction, Romance, or Science Fiction, for example, you have no hope.

Even if you refine your selection from the options available, you are still in a pool of thousands of other books.

For instance, Fiction / Romance / Contemporary or Fiction /  or  Science Fiction / Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic.

But when you look at the Product Details section, do you see your book listed for any best-selling ranks?

Best Seller Rank

You can check out some top-ranking books on Amazon.

You will notice that when a book has these, the categories are generally narrow and are very rarely BISACS headings.

When your book is in smaller and far less competitive categories, you have a much better chance of getting a Best Sellers Rank.

How to check your categories

A book’s categories don’t appear on an Amazon book page unless it ranks.

Only the general category appears at the top of the page, such as Kindle Store›Kindle eBooks›Science Fiction & Fantasy.

There must be at least two, so how can you check?

Luckily, there is a nifty little free Book Category Hunter tool by the NerdyBookGirl.

All you need to do is paste the ASIN or ISBN, and presto! You can see all the categories.

It’s the best way to start the process of improving or adding categories to your book.

If you only see two for your book and ebook, it’s time to do some work.

List of categories

Let’s look at how you can do this.

Finding new niche categories for free

When you publish a new book with KDP, you can choose seven search keywords and two categories.

Chosen well, these help readers find your book on Amazon.

You can’t use more than seven keywords, but you can add more categories.

There are two ways you can do your research to find additional categories for your book.

One is free, and the other requires specialized software.

The free technique is relatively easy but a little time-consuming.

You will need to check high-ranking books in your genre and look at the ranking categories.

However, Amazon only shows a maximum of three.

check out other books

Clicking on a category will only give you a list of more books.

You need to copy the ASIN or ISBN of the books and use the Book Category Hunter tool to access the categories.

Then you can see all the categories for the book with the entire category strings.

The book above has twelve Kindle and ten book categories.

That’s too many to list here, but here are a few examples.

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Legal Thrillers

Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Crime Thrillers > Murder Thrillers

Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers & Suspense > Spies & Political Thrillers > Assassination Thrillers

You might need to check ten to twenty books or more to find categories that are a good fit for your book.

When you have your list, you can then ask Amazon to add them. I’ll show you how to do it later in this article.

. . . .

The best way to add more Amazon categories

The big drawback with the free method is that you don’t know how competitive or effective your choices will be.

The only way to get an accurate guide is to use Publisher Rocket to access the Amazon database.

Now you can check how many sales you need to rank in the top ten or at number one. You can check for books, ebooks, and audiobooks.

With the software, you can search for less competitive categories to give your book the best chance to rank.

Kindlepreneur has a terrific guide on how to use Publisher Rocket to find better categories for your book.

Link to the rest at Just Publishing Advice

PG notes that he has been using Publisher Rocket for several years and has found it both helpful and time-saving.

PG notes that he has no relationship with the folks who created and maintain Publisher Rocket and mentions it simply because he likes it. The OP caused PG to rethink some of the ways he uses the program in order to improve the visibility of Mrs. PG’s books.

Genre and Gender: Grappling With the Awkward Question of “Women’s” Fiction

From Writer Unboxed:

I’m guessing that there are others like me, who have struggled to find a “genre name” that fits what they’ve written.

Some genre labels seem pretty straightforward. Fantasy. Mystery. Memoir. “Young Adult” is defined by its audience, “western” by its setting, “historical fiction” by its era. Yet there’s a huge chunk of contemporary fiction, like mine, that doesn’t meet any of those criteria and thus seems to fall, by default, into the awkward category of “women’s fiction.”

Women’s fiction is, in fact, the box I check when I fill out questionnaires or apply for awards, yet I’ve never liked the term and wish I didn’t have to use it. Nonetheless, I’ve accepted the label, not wanting to cause trouble or appear hypocritical, especially when (happily) accepting awards in that very category. No one can have it both ways—criticizing a label, except when it benefits them.

I still don’t want to be hypocritical, but I think it’s time to raise the question. Publisher’s Marketplace already has, recently dropping women’s fiction as a genre, and even the Women’s Fiction Writers Association is planning to address the question as it nears its tenth anniversary.

This raises another question, of course—whether we need a new word for the same category, or whether the category itself is flawed.

First of all, what does the term women’s fiction actually mean?

Those who embrace the term will say that women’s fiction is defined by the nature of its narrative arc—that is, by a story line that depicts an internal, emotional journey—rather than by the gender of the author, protagonist, or intended audience. According to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association:

“the driving force of women’s fiction is the protagonist’s journey toward a more fulfilled self.”

Period. Thus, a work of women’s fiction can—in theory—be written by a man, have a man as its central character, and be read chiefly by men.

Okay. If we set the notion of gender aside, as part of the definition, and define the genre of women’s fiction by the protagonist’s internal arc— it’s clear enough, I guess, although it seems like an awfully broad definition, encompassing much of our great literature.

But, again, what does the word women have to do with it?

It does seem odd to use gender in the label for something that purports to have nothing to do with gender! It’s confusing and misleading—especially since gendered labels are being replaced, more and more, by gender-neutral ones. Stewardess has become flight attendant; waitress has become server; and mailman has become letter carrier. That’s seems respectful and right.

Moreover, there’s no corresponding “men’s fiction”—nor is there “women’s art” or “women’s music.” It seems reasonable to ask why writers are the only ones who use a gendered term, and whether we should continue to do so.

My discomfort with the notion of women’s fiction label has grown stronger over the years, even though my latest novel, like its predecessors, has been deemed a work of women’s fiction. Yet it could just as easily be categorized by its setting, theme, or the fact that it’s a love story.

Aha, you may be thinking—that’s because it’s not women’s fiction; it’s a romance!

But it’s not. According to the Romance Writers of America:

“Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

“Emotionally satisfying” is a subjective term, since what satisfies one reader may leave another reader annoyed, puzzled, or just plain angry. Remember Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook, throwing A Farewell to Arms out the window because the ending made him furious?

It’s the “optimistic ending” that defines a romance novel—in other words, a “happy ending.” No matter how many obstacles, arguments, misunderstandings, wrong choices, and estrangements take place during the course of the story, the lovers are together at the end. Without revealing details of the plot, I’ll simply say that my new book does not meet the criteria for a romance.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG suggests that a genre tag is most useful to guide a physical bookstore to shelve a book where the publisher thinks most prospective readers/purchasers will venture.

I expect that a genre tag in an online bookstore serves a similar marketing role. However, there are so many different ways of enhancing the visibility of a book, at least on Amazon, that an author can pretty much create their own special genre by virtue of the words used in the book description as well as list in multiple categories.

Using a variety of different terms in different Amazon ads and honing the targeting language to reach differing audiences is also a potential help in covering multiple genres.

Where’s Wendig? Wayward Wanderings, A Wendig-in-the-Wild Book Tour!

From Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds:

Hey! You asked if I was going out into the world on book tour for Wayward? Why yes, I am, to these places right here:

11/12, 3pm: Doylestown Bookshop, Doylestown, PA

11/15, 7pm: Eagle Eye Bookshop, Atlanta, GA, with Delilah S. Dawson

11/16, 6pm: Malaprops, Asheville, NC

11/17, 7pm, Queens University, Charlotte, NC (link to come)

11/19, 2pm, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA (link to come)

11/20, 2pm, B&N, Potomac, VA (Alexandria)

And then there are two additional dates in December —

12/4, 3pm, Let’s Play Books, Emmaus, PA talking to Bo Koltnow of WFMZ, takes place at Nowhere Coffee Co – South Mountain.

12/10, 1pm, B&N Bethlehem (which is actually in Easton, PA?)

. . . .

Where can you get signed, personalized copies?

Well, any of these should be able to furnish that if you’re coming to the event. As for if they’ll ship to you, I suspect you can through Eagle Eye, Malaprops, Fountain, Let’s Play. I can also guarantee that Doylestown Bookshop will, because they’re my local store and I’m going there on 11/10 to sign the books that they’re sending out! 

. . . .

Why aren’t you coming to my town specifically?!

BECAUSE I HATE YOU okay wait no that’s not it.

So! I don’t set this tour up. My publisher does. And in that setup they contact bookstores, find out what stores are interested, what stores think they can run the event and run it well, where I have readers and where I can make new readers and so on and so forth. Then they do calculus based on how I can get to each of these easily. The tour is in November, where weather might start getting hinky in parts of the country. And air travel is janky as fuck right now. Here, the goal was to manage a tour that was predominantly driving. And doing a Southern tour in this case made sense — the weather should be better, I haven’t done a tour down there before, and there are a number of stores I’ve wanted to get to (Fountain and Malaprops in particular!). And it’s configured in a way to maximize that first week of visits.

All of this is predicated too on the worry that book events aren’t all the way “back,” so to speak, in the not-quite-post-pandemic-but-we’re-pretending-it’s-post-pandemic era. It’s not that they’re not happening, but they do seem erratic. (Which is why it’s important if you can show up, if possible! Support stores! Support events! Bring me candy and whiskey I mean what!)

If your town isn’t listed, I apologize, I might get there in the future. Unless you’re a jerk. Then I will never come to your town ever! Ha ha ha! Jerk!

Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

As PG has opined before, he thinks book tours are somewhat (massively?) outdated. Looking at the schedule, PG wonders how much additional time will be occupied by preparation and how long it will be before Chuck feels much like writing anything new.

PG doesn’t recall if he has used TPV to observe that a great many authors (likely the majority) are introverts. That’s one reason they can spend a lot of time at a keyboard by themselves.

Extraverts tend to be energized by lots of interaction with people. Introverts tend to feel drained by the same experience. More than one author has returned from a book tour feeling exhausted and drained of any creative energy. Not much gets written while the creative juices regenerate.

PG wonders if all the out-of-pocket expenses involved in planning and executing an author tour were used to buy more ads on Amazon if the results, measured in book sales, might not be greater. Out-of-pocket costs don’t include the time value of flunkies at the publisher who have to set up and coordinate each of the bookstore visits, including shipping a bunch of dead-tree books to and fro.

But PG could be wrong about all of this.

A Writing Career Returns from the Grave

From Publishers Weekly:

In autumn of 1996, I was a mass market paperback writer for Kensington Publishing under the Zebra Books horror line. My career was steady and building momentum, with eight novels published and two forthcoming on its midlist schedule. Then, without warning, the horror publishing industry imploded, and Zebra unceremoniously shut down its line.

After six years as a full-time author, I was suddenly unemployed. The reason for Zebra’s shutdown, as well as for that of many other publishers’ imprints, was an oversaturation of the horror genre. To feed the ravenous appetite of a loyal reading audience, mass market publishers had taken on inexperienced writers who were penning novels with inferior plotlines that lacked the spit and polish that established authors were accustomed to providing. In turn, readers got burned time and time again, and sales dropped. In desperation, publishers began to cut books and authors to sustain fiscal stability. Eventually, many canceled their horror fiction lines completely.

My agent’s advice upon calling me and giving me the bad news of Zebra Horror’s demise? “Write anything but horror.” So, I took that advice to heart and did just that. As weeks led into months, I tried my hand at several other genres. None of them panned out. Plain and simple, I was a horror writer and the niche I had worked so hard to establish myself in was gone. Frustration led to bitterness, then to apathy. Seeing no chance of regaining my success—and having bills to pay and a family to support—I simply quit. I completely abstained from writing and even reading horror fiction for 10 long years.

That decade of self-exile was rife with resignation and depression on my part. At age 36, coming from a blue-collar family and having no college education to speak of, I turned to the factories. I laced up my steel-toed boots and punched the clock from eight to four, sometimes six days a week. There were highs—raising a family, buying my first home, and enjoying the security of a 401(k) and health insurance. Even when the horror genre regained its footing, I shied away from the possibility of returning. In my mind, I’d had my shot and then lost it, never to retrieve the glory and satisfaction of publishing again. I kept my nose to the grindstone and clung to that weekly paycheck and sense of security.

During those years, everyone swore that the rise of the internet would herald the death of publishing—that easy access to cyber information would replace the need and desire for the printed word. Ironically, it turned out to be the catalyst that sparked a renewed interest in my work. Fans began to purchase my old Zebra novels on eBay and praise my work in online discussion forums. Many urged me to come back to the fold. After some soul-searching, I took the plunge and returned to the horror genre in summer 2006.

However, during the time I was gone, an entirely new generation of readers had appeared—a generation that hadn’t read my work and had no idea who I was. For several years, I worked to rebuild my popularity and appeal. Having regained all rights to my Zebra backlist, I signed on with Crossroad Press, a new publisher specializing in e-books and audiobooks, in 2010. My eight novels, plus two that hadn’t been published, were released, as well as a number of collections of short stories I had written for major magazines and anthologies.

I continued work with smaller, horror-oriented presses, which provided more author control and say-so over content and cover design—something I never had during my tenure with Kensington. Slowly, readers took notice, and my brand of Southern horror fiction became popular again. My readership expanded with the help of social media, and my sales followed suit. YouTube videos featuring reviews of my older books brought them back to readers’ consciousness, and those forgotten titles took on new life and thrived.

I continued work with smaller, horror-oriented presses, which provided more author control and say-so over content and cover design—something I never had during my tenure with Kensington. Slowly, readers took notice, and my brand of Southern horror fiction became popular again.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Exhibit 9148722-C for not hitching your professional wagon to a traditional publisher. At least the author of the OP was able to get his rights back from Kensington. PG notes the OP doesn’t mention whether Kensington made him pay to get his rights back. With a standard publishing contract, they didn’t have to give rights back if the imprint closed down.

PG checked out the website of Crossroads Press, the author’s new publisher, and found the site was being reconstructed – not a good look. If you’re going to replace a commercial website with a new/refurbished/restructured commercial, you keep your old site front and center while you build your new site either offline or on a URL that nobody will ever find.

When the new site is ready, you replace the old site with the new site, probably at the same URL so you don’t have to start all over with being discovered by the search engines and off you go without losing any online momentum.

PG has done it. It’s not rocket surgery.

PS: When PG checked the link to Crossroads Press, he noted that the redesign began on July 21.

How to Hook Readers with a Better Book Description

From Written Word Media:

We want to kick our post on writing the perfect book description off with a metaphor: one where you imagine your reader as a fish and your book as a tasty worm. You want readers to buy the book that you’re selling, similar to how you’d want a fish to grab the worm if you’re fishing! The only problem is that there are so many worms (or books in our case) to choose from in the world.

With all these available worms, you’re worried that yours might go completely overlooked. So how do you make your worm the prettiest, shiniest, best-looking option? You package it well.

We’ve shown you that there are many steps to successfully marketing your book, such as creating an attractive book cover, properly utilizing Amazon ads, setting up and managing an author page, and more.

But one crucial detail that authors often overlook is their book description. To reference our Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy emails, this is what we’re referring to:

Book descriptions are your way of quickly grabbing the reader’s attention and showing them why they need your book. With so many options for readers to choose from, your book description could be what makes or breaks a potential sale!

A successful book description will stop readers in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to engage with your book. An unsuccessful book description, however, will make readers move on to the next book.

. . . .

Part of knowing how to write a successful book description that sells is knowing what not to do. Let’s break down the do’s and don’ts you’ll want to follow when writing your book descriptions:

The do’s:

  • Succinct and to the point
  • Proper utilization of grammar
  • Eye-catching, powerful language
  • Inclusion of awards, high reviews, or ratings
  • “Perfect for fans of… x, y, and z.”
  • Audience and age appropriate

Check out this example of a “do” book description: Clearly written with a powerful descriptor (“acclaimed”), it gives just a snippet of the plot while still intriguing readers. Makes you want to buy the book, right?

The don’ts:

  • Shouty caps
  • Too short
  • Cut off words
  • False claims
  • Misspellings or typos
  • Dated language like “just released”
  • Aggressive call to action (“You MUST buy this book!”)

Link to the rest at Written Word Media

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers 2022

From Kindlepreneur:

Using social media to get our writing out into the world can be an amazing opportunity. It helps market our works and hopefully, gain a following that will continue to benefit from our writing.

But it can also be a curse. Because of so many social media platforms, most writers languish in obscurity and end up spending more time marketing their writing than just…writing.

. . . .

Organic vs Paid Social Media

Before we start discussing the different social media platforms for authors and writers, I want to discuss an important part of all platforms: Free versus Paid traffic. This is otherwise known as Organic vs Advertisement. Back when social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were first around, you could easily gain followers quickly. And when you posted, a majority of them would see it. But this was before the Age of Advertisement.

With its advent, social media morphed into a pay-to-play model. For instance, Facebook natural reach declined quickly and posts are rarely seen organically. HOWEVER…

This doesn’t mean that you can’t reach your followers organically. If reaching followers more effectively and efficiently is your concern, then advertising is the best way forward. This way you can spend more time writing and less time pampering your social media accounts for organic traffic. The truth is that gaining a following on social media organically takes a lot of time. Time that you’d rather spend writing.

On the flip side, putting money out there for ads can be scary. Especially when you’re not making a lot of money yet, or you’re not sure what you’re doing.

. . . .

List of Social Media for Writers

Social media is a wonderful tool for both professional and personal reasons. It helps you to keep in touch with friends, family, fans, and potential clients. There are many different platforms out there, each with their own unique features. These include, but are not limited to:


So, which one is best for you? It all depends on exactly what you are looking for and how much time and energy you are willing to dedicate to social media. Let’s take a look at some of the platforms available for authors and writers to utilize.

Facebook Page or Group for Writers

Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms. It not only has the largest user base, but is also one of the most widely used for all demographics. No matter what you write, your market definitely exists on Facebook.

With Facebook, authors have three ways to market their books and writings:

  1. Using your Personal Facebook Profile
  2. Creating an Author Page
  3. Joining or Creating an Author Group

Your personal Facebook profile is exactly what it says. Some have had success with this. Personally though, I prefer not to mix business with my personal life.

An author page is your official writer page where you can post about your works or anything that is happening in your genre or subject matter. This tends to be the preferred choice for most writers. With a Facebook Page, you have more control of the social media marketing aspect of your writing. You can also dictate whether your followers have the ability to post on your page or not.

A Facebook Group could be a good fit for you as well, especially for beginning or newer authors. Creating a group of like-minded fans of your genre can keep you relevant and always attracting new readers. It allows you to interact with your groups followers. However, it will require a lot more time because with good groups, you need to mediate and keep the group clean and on target.

. . . .

Twitter for Writers

As of right now, there are very few platforms anywhere that are more watched than Twitter. From celebrity gossip to presidential politics, Twitter has become a place where you can experience it all. It is a huge arena to exchange ideas and get your author brand out there. From a business standpoint, Twitter can be a powerful tool if utilized correctly.

Twitter provides a fast-paced platform for you to pitch your writing. By limiting the amount of characters that can be used, Twitter encourages the elevator pitch format. Get your point out there. Bring in followers. That simple.

It’s also a great place to build a following. You see, many Twitter users act on a follow-for-follow policy. So, all you need to do is find and follow those who may be interested in your work or those who you are interested in. Normally when you follow an individual, that person will follow you back. You help each other build fan bases. An I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine kinda thing. Building a following has never been easier.

Examples of Writers Using Twitter Effectively

  • JK Rowling: Rowling does it best when she’s roasting trolls both at Hogwarts and online.
  • Stephen King: Stephen’s tweets normally have been promotional and friendly in nature. He does like to make political statements here as well. Many of which have garnered him a much larger following.
  • Jodi Picoult: She spends her Twitter time taking down nasty Internet trolls and defending those who are discriminated against in society.
  • Rick Riordan: When not promoting his work, Rick uses Twitter for other means. By reading through Rick’s Twitter feed, you will find that he is a huge fan of self-deprecating humor and the latest in science and tech.

Link to the rest at Kindlepreneur

Instagram tests new features to give users more control over suggested posts

From TechCrunch:

Instagram is testing two new features that are designed to help users control more of what they see on the app, Meta announced on Tuesday. First, the company is testing the ability for users to mark multiple posts on the Explore page with the “Not Interested” option. Meta says it will immediately hide these posts and refrain from displaying similar content in the future. Prior to this change, users only had the option to use the Not Interested feature on one post at a time.

The company will also start testing the ability for users to choose to not see suggested posts with certain words, phrases or emojis in the caption or hashtag. Instagram notes that whether you’re seeing something that’s not relevant or have moved on from something you used to like, this new functionality can be used to stop seeing content that you don’t find interesting anymore.

“It’s important to us that people feel good about the time they spend on Instagram, so we’ll continue to work on ways to give people more control over what they see,” Meta said in a blog post.

The launch of the new features comes as Instagram recently decided to temporarily reduce the number of suggested posts that users see. The change followed intense backlash from users who expressed frustration over the app’s gradual transition away from being a place where users could mainly see photos of their friends and family into an app that’s overcrowded with recommended posts.

At the time, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the app would temporarily reduce the number of recommended posts that users see in order for the app to get better at ranking and presenting recommendations to users. Mosseri said the changes aren’t permanent, which means Instagram is still going to be focused on suggested posts; it’s just going to find a way to do so in a better way. The changes introduced today are likely part of this commitment.

As part of today’s announcement, Meta also shared tips that people can use to see more of what they want on Instagram. For instance, you can use the app’s Favorites feed option to scroll through posts from your favorite accounts. When you add an account to the feed, you’ll see posts from that account more often. You can access the Favorites feed by tapping the Instagram logo in your feed.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

PG suggests that social media marketing for authors is not the easiest thing in the world to create. As the OP suggests, the rules for success tend to change from time to time and a hard-working author needs to put keeping up with those changes on her/his to-do list.

PG will check around for items on best practices for authors in social media marketing. Feel free to include suggestions on this topic in the comments to this post or the Contact Me button at the top of the blog.

How to Promote a Book on Social Media: 13 Tips for Indie Authors

From Ingram Spark:

Social media writer’s block. It’s a thing! You have no problem hammering away at an 80,000-word novel, but when it comes to a 280 character tweet? Forget about it! You end up posting about what you had for dinner or what you did during the day, and nobody seems to be listening… or following. If that sounds like you, then these 13 social media marketing tips are just what you need.

Before digging in, let’s answer the elephant in the room:

Why do authors need to be on social media?

Think about it like this: You have this great idea for a new surfboard company; you’ve taken out a loan, and you pour your heart and soul into this company. And then you open your store… in Kansas City. Unless you’re a mail-order business, you probably aren’t going to sell a lot of surfboards. It’s not that your surfboards are bad. The more realistic reason you aren’t selling any is that you have your audience all wrong. Social media helps you target and find your audience.

If social media content doesn’t come naturally to you, you aren’t alone. As a writer, you spend the majority of your working time away from other people. When you finish your book, it can be difficult to switch into social mode.

The first thing you should think about is this: you probably didn’t just finish your book without setting author goals. You should apply this principle of having goals for your social media marketing as well. 

You wrote a great book! Now use the 13 tips below in your social media marketing strategy to start finding readers for it! Don’t let the number scare you—these are quick goals and require a daily time investment of no more than 10 to 20 minutes.

Let’s get started!

1. Ask Yourself: Who Are You Writing For?

Is your goal as a writer to sell 1,000,000 copies?

Great! Lots of writers have done that. But no writer who has sold 1,000,000 copies just steps out the door and says, “my audience is everyone.” They know who their book was written for, and they go after those people in their book marketing. 

Before you think too hard about what you’ll say, consider who you’ll say it to. You don’t start any social network with followers, after all. So, where do you find your target audience? 

Start by following people you actually want to follow. Don’t follow 5,000 people just so they’ll maybe follow you back.

Follow people you genuinely want to interact with—and people who would actually interact with you. 

Once you’re following them, show you have an interest in what they’re saying by responding to their tweets and engaging in conversations. Never forget, social media marketing is a two-way street. When you understand who you’re writing for, your social media presence will start to grow organically.

There are several free and paid tools to help you. The most obvious places to start are social networks—namely Facebook and Twitter.

2. Find a Consistent Voice

You’re a writer, so you probably know all about your writing voice. That voice should carry over to social media as well. Don’t post uninspired tweets—show that you really enjoy doing this, and you aren’t doing it because someone is twisting your arm.

Knowing who your audience is and what they’re saying about you does another important thing for your book marketing: it helps you find the right message to communicate.

Maybe you’ve sold a few hundred books already, but you have zero interaction when it comes to your social accounts. You speak to your readers, but no one seems to care. When you know who your audience is, you can begin making a message that’s directed to them, and that they actually respond to. You should always be yourself—but be yourself in a way your readers can connect to. 

If you notice that all your readers who follow you are 20-somethings, then maybe it’s time to stop live-tweeting every time Murder She Wrote comes on TV; if they’re mostly on the East Coast, then they probably won’t understand all of your In-N-Out Burger references; if you get negative sentiments from a tweet you posted about not wanting to have a baby, then you can probably assume that many of your readers are parents and you should lay off the topic.

3. Create a Social Calendar

Your social media shouldn’t be random—”I’ll post when I feel like it or when something pops in my head.” It should be strategic. There will be times where you’ll add something in the moment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. At the very least, you should be scheduling one social media post a day on Twitter, and two posts a week on Instagram and Facebook. 

When you’re creating a schedule, it helps to be thematic. Mondays are for tweeting quotes, Tuesdays are for posting reviews, etc. Knowing the type of post you will publish on any given day will help you avoid having social media writer’s block.

Link to the rest at Ingram Spark

Bogus Agents, Phony Communities, Fake Conferences, and Pay-to-Play Anthologies: New Scam Warnings for Writers

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Bogus agents are ba-a-ack. Once upon a time, in the long-ago era when I was querying, fee-charging agencies and in-house editorial services were the problem. Their scams usually involved charging a “reading fee” (a no-no for legit agents) or referring writers to editorial services and vanity presses they themselves owned.

They also added to their coffers by charging “mailing and copying” fees. This was the pre-Internet age when we had to send manuscripts in hard copy. Those manuscripts needed Xeroxing and postage for expensive snails. Bogus agents overcharged writers for those fees.

These old-school bogus agents targeted unpublished authors who didn’t know how the process worked. In one of my very first blogposts, 13 years ago, I warned writers about these bogus agents., who had scammed a number of my friends. Much of the advice is still true.

But the new bogus agents are more brazen. And they mostly target published authors who have self-published or published with small presses without much financial success.

. . . .

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware reports that phony agents are cold-calling or emailing self-published authors and offering a range of scammy services, all of which are pricey, although they claim to work only on commission like real literary agents. But in the next sentence they will ask big bux for their other “services,” like:

  • Republishing your book to send to “investors” or “get you a traditional publishing contract.”
  • Filming a pricey book trailer
  • Book-to-Film “licensing” (See my post on this heartbreaking scam And here’s Alli’s warning, including business names the book-to-film scammers use.) I hear from people every day who have been snagged by this scam.
  • High-ticket, useless marketing services.
  • Buying you an interview on a podcast or radio show nobody listens to.

The new wrinkle is the bogus agents pose as real, well-known literary agents. Essentially, they’re catfishing. They put out a mass-mailing to all the writers they can find, and paste in the bio and history of the real agent. They may even link to the real agency’s website. The phone number and email belong to the scammer, but the fact the agent is real can bamboozle a lot of writers.

However, if you pay attention, you’ll see some obvious red flags:

  • Bogus agents don’t understand what real agents do — represent unpublished books to editors at big publishing houses.
  • They don’t know the difference between a royalty and an advance.
  • And assume a literary agent is a book marketer.
  • Plus they make lots of grammatical oopsies.

. . . .

Don’t Pay to Join Phony Communities

Recently, I’ve seen random ads for newly-formed “writing communities.”  And I’ve had a whole bunch of questions from readers who’ve had invitations to join them. The companies behind some of these “communities” are vanity publishers who snag new writers with promises of mutual “support” and later sell them hugely expensive self-publishing packages. Others provide ghostwriting, editing, or other writing services. Some are bogus agents. They all say they provide a “community” where writers can help each other reach their goals — for a fee.

One Facebook page promised a “seven figure income” if a writer paid the monthly fee and learned their secret “tips” for becoming a successful author.

So if this no-name Facebook advertiser knows how to make a seven figure income writing books, why isn’t she writing them?

Maybe she’s making more scamming writers?

Some of these communities charge more than $100 a month to join. They promise “support” and “encouragement” in unspecific ways. Are you willing to pay that much to have other newbies critique your work?

And good luck trying to get your money back. Reports are that phone numbers will suddenly be out of service and emails will go unanswered.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Anne provides a list of legitimate online writers sites at the OP.

“Award-Winning Author:” What Does It Mean—and Does It Matter?

From Writer Unboxed:

Who wouldn’t love to win a prestigious award? The National Book Award. The Booker Prize. The PEN/Faulkner. The Women’s Prize for Fiction. The Pulitzer and Nobel.

Few authors will achieve that level of recognition, but there are many “smaller” awards that are far more accessible. And if you win one of them, you still get to call yourself an “award-winning author,” right?

Hmm. Let’s talk about it.

First, some facts. These “facts” are not meant to imply that award contests are a scam or that one shouldn’t enter them. Rather, they’re meant to offer a realistic context in which each of us can make informed decisions that suit our individual goals, budget, and vision.

Fact #1. While the “big” awards may include a monetary prize for the winning author, the majority of smaller awards do not—instead, the author must spend money to enter. Entry fees range from $60-95 per title, although the actual cost can be much higher if you enter multiple categories, since each has a separate fee. More about that below.

It’s not unethical to charge a submission fee. There are overhead costs to the host organization, including the staff time it takes to process the thousands of entries that each program receives, but it’s good to be prepared. Some organizations offer an “early bird” discount. Others, like the Lambda Literary Award for LBGTQ authors, have different submission fees for authors with large publishers and those with small or independent publishers.

Fact #2. Awards operate in different ways, including who can apply. While some contests (like the National Book Award) are open to all authors, regardless of publishing path, others (like the Booker) will not allow authors to submit their own work; only publishers may submit, which means that self-published authors are excluded. There are also regional awards, limited by where you live, as well as awards for specific genres such as science fiction, romance novels, Christian fiction, and so on. In general, the wider the eligibility net, the more competition and the greater the prestige; thus, national and international awards tend to viewed as more significant than local or regional ones.

Many contests are specifically for “indie authors”—authors who have published with a small, university, or hybrid press, or have self-published. Titles from the large publishing houses are not eligible.  “Small press” usually means fewer than forty titles a year, no advance paid to the author, and possibly a print-on-demand arrangement. However, these distinctions vary. The Nautilus Awards, for instance, separates books by “large” and small” publisher, regardless of whether the press is independent or traditional. Thus, a Nautilus win by an indie author with a “large” publisher means that she has competed against authors from the Big Four.

Fact #3. Awards can be a big business. This is especially true for the independent book award programs, which also solicit winners with offers to purchase seals or stickers for their books, and to “take advantage” of special advertising opportunities to increase their visibility. These promotions can be aggressive and hard to resist.

Among the best-known of these independent awards are:

  • Best Indie Book Award
  • Eric Hoffer Award
  • Foreword INDIES Book of the Year
  • IBPA Ben Franklin Awards
  • Independent Publisher Book Awards, also known as the IPPYs
  • National Indie Excellence Awards
  • Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
  • Readers Favorite Awards

There are certainly others (such as the American Book Fest, Chanticleer, and International Book Awards); the list above is not meant to imply that all other awards are less legitimate.

For sure, there are a lot of awards aimed at independent authors. Having observed this phenomenon up-close—personally, and through conversations with other authors—I’d say that it’s because indie authors are a good fit for these contests. We’re used to taking book promotion into our own hands, since we don’t expect a big publishing house to do that for us. We’re also looking for ways to increase our status, and have accepted that we’ll have to spend our own money to do so.

The question is how to discriminate and spend that money wisely. We want to know:

  • Which awards are “worth” applying for?
  • How many award contests should I enter?
  • Should I focus on “high prestige” awards, or awards that I think I have a chance of winning?
  • Do these awards really matter?

Like nearly everything in the publishing business, the “answers” are subjective. It depends on the kind of book you’ve written, your goals, budget, and priorities.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

TikTok Has Changed Everything, Especially Book Publishing

From Observer:

TikTok, it has become almost hard to remember, began a few short years ago (2016) as an app for sharing videos of yourself lip-syncing music and dancing. The extremity of its success (it reached one billion users in September and has been the world’s most downloaded mobile app since early 2020, with nearly half of its American users occupying the coveted under-twenty-five demographic) owes something to the universal seduction of music, and quite a bit to a concert of small technical features that make it very easy and effective to use, but most of all to its famously irresistible recommendation algorithm, which measures minutely what you respond to and trawls through its vast bank of freely surrendered videos to serve up for you what you may not even be aware you like. Digital advertising has long sought you out for characteristics you inadvertently disclosed in your online life; TikTok does the work ahead of time by hiving you into ever-more-specific niches. In contrast to previous social media platforms, which were, by definition, social, encircling you with the decisions of people you had chosen to surround yourself with, TikTok opens the tiny window in your hand to the entire inexhaustible world.

TikTok bills itself as an entertainment platform, setting out to “make your day,” and when we start to fault it for not doing other things I am reminded of how, for instance, the novel was for centuries disparaged as a low (women’s) form. All the ways we communicate operate on a continuum between pleasing and substantive, and sometimes real culture comes to us in the form of fun. Currently many artistic forms previously considered pop or commercial—comic books, genres like science fiction and romance, gaming—are getting their day in the sun as ways of communicating their own unique truths, often truths of people left out of the more prestigious mediums. TikTok’s accessible reward of virality does make it a very democratic form, unlike other platforms that multiply the benefits of already being famous: Tech writer Nathan Baschez memorably called it “by and for randos.” It invites people to craft a publicly irresistible face with the promise of a waiting public, and people rocket to visibility out of nowhere.

That TikTok is addictive and fun and confined to what it is doesn’t necessarily make it “bad,” but its ubiquity demands attention, and because tech always chases the next new thing, its signature characteristics are spreading beyond its little frame. Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, which has achieved dominance in part by copying and coopting rivals, has characteristically in the last few weeks modified its main two platforms, Facebook and Instagram, to mimic TikTok’s strengths. In Facebook’s case, there will now be internal competition for the posts of your “friends and family” (which within memory Meta devalued news in order to prioritize—in a different kind of bid to keep your attention) via posts from strangers that promise virality. Instagram is now nudging you in the direction of seeing and lingering on more viral content from strangers, a measure it cycled back somewhat this week after complaints from Instagram tycoon Kylie Jenner (who makes a lot of money from her Instagram “friends”) and others. Cal Newport in The New Yorker interestingly pointed out what the social media giants have to lose if they surrender their carefully assembled social connections assets for these agglomerations of strangers.

Link to the rest at Observer

The Unlikely Author Who’s Absolutely Dominating the Bestseller List

From Slate:

This has been the summer of Colleen Hoover, a recent viral TikTok announced, editing together clips of young women at the beach reading books by the Texas novelist. Furthermore, just a couple of months ago we had a Colleen Hoover spring and before that a Colleen Hoover winter and before that a Colleen Hoover fall. On any given week for more than a year now, the 42-year-old Hoover has had three to six books on Publishers Weekly’s top 10 bestseller list. Currently three of the top five titles on the New York Times’ combined print and e-book fiction list are Hoover’s. The most popular of these novels, It Ends With Us, isn’t even new. It was published six years ago. A forthcoming sequel to that novel (or possibly a prequel, it’s not yet clear), It Starts With Us, will be published in October, its perch at the summit of both lists guaranteed.

Observers typically attribute Hoover’s success to BookTok, the segment of TikTok dedicated to authors and readers. And Hoover—known as CoHo to her fans, who call themselves Cohorts—is indeed the queen of BookTok, an adept TikToker herself, as well as the subject of countless videos in which young women appear clutching huge stacks of candy-colored CoHo paperbacks and proceed to rank their favorites among her 24 titles. But while Hoover might just be the ideal author to preside over TikTok, the platform is only the latest online vehicle she had ridden to fame and fortune. She sometimes presents herself as surprised by her own virality, but Hoover has been a savvy self-promoter since 2012, when she distributed free copies of her first, self-published YA novel, Slammed, to influential book bloggers. She was big on BookTube (the YouTube book community) and big on “Bookstagram” well before TikTok came along. Furthermore, her story—social worker and mom transformed into blockbuster author via whatever new technology of the moment is ostensibly revolutionizing the book business (self-publishing, blogging, Instagram, TikTok)—is catnip to traditional news outlets.

But a new technology can’t make readers love a book. It can only persuade people to read it. What is it about Hoover’s work that makes it so popular, so infectiously recommendable? Her novels do seem particularly well-suited to the currently ascendant TikTok because the platform favors big, grabby displays of emotion, as opposed to the tasteful lifestyle curation of Instagram, formerly touted as the hot new way to sell books. CoHo fans on TikTok record themselves sobbing, screaming, gasping in astonishment, and pressing her books to their hearts in winsome displays of adoration. Often, actual words are superfluous to communicating the reader’s response—in fact, they may be more of a hindrance than a help. Above all, BookTok conveys that Hoover’s fiction delivers power jolts of unadulterated feels.

Hoover’s books are more varied than the work of many bestselling novelists. You pretty much know what you’re getting when you grab a James Patterson thriller before boarding a long flight. But Hoover has written YA, romantic comedies, a ghost story, a gothic suspense novel, problem novels exploring such difficult issues as domestic violence and child sexual abuse, and steamy romances like Ugly Love, a novel about an affair between a nurse and an airline pilot that I estimate to be about 70 percent sex scenes. Not all of the Cohorts adore all of her books, but they’ve shown themselves to be willing to follow her into relatively uncharted territory and to appreciate what they find there. (Note to anyone reading further: There will be spoilers.)

Romance of one kind or another plays a role in every Hoover novel, and to judge by her TikTok fans, they speak to an audience with a well-developed awareness of the romance genre’s established—not to say shopworn—tropes.

Currently three of the top five titles on the New York Times’ combined print and e-book fiction list are Hoover’s.

Link to the rest at Slate

A Love-Hate Relationship with Book Promotion

From Publishers Weekly:

Do you always wait for the launch day of the year and then miss it?

Sorry for the awkward paraphrase, but my novel Daisy was recently published digitally (print follows in September), and as I write this, my long-awaited digital launch has also passed. Yet, just as Daisy Buchanan coyly makes fun of her own forgetfulness, I’m wondering about my, well, nonchalance.

. . . .

I’ve been prancing around the internet talking about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, cringing, as I suspect most authors do, at the BSP (blatant self-promotion) required of writers. Which leads me to a question: does any author really enjoy promoting their own books? I veer between wanting to sing the song of my stories and wanting to sit quietly in my home without saying a peep about them, hoping somehow the world discovers them.

In my (mumble, mumble)years of writing, I’ve done blog tours, radio and newspaper interviews, book signings (one at BookExpo America back in the day), book talks, and readings. I’ve given away free copies to my (dozens of) fans. I’ve asked readers to consider penning fair reviews at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble if they like my books.

As enthusiastic as I might be at the start of this process, at some point I always come to feel, well, what is the point?

We all know that as valuable as those promotional activities are, they’re not what makes a bestseller. Starred reviews don’t always make bestsellers, either. Nor do blurbs from top authors. Nor do many of the tips in “how to market your book” blogs and tomes. It’s buzz, that elusive buzz, that makes the difference, and finding it is as difficult as Gatsby’s quest for the woman behind the green light at the end of the pier.

After looking at that green light for decades now, I’m convinced that influencers talking about a book might be the single best way to increase sales. But influencers seem to gravitate toward books that already have some buzz or some great preorder sales, and rarely do they focus on books published by small presses. Which reminds me—excuse me for a moment—Oprah, Reese, are you listening? I have a book coming out that I think you might like, but it’s published by a small press! (More book promo, check.)

I think authors have two dreams when they start their careers: one is just to get published, and the other is to be bestsellers. But after you’ve bumped around the business for a while, you realize that even if you don’t achieve that latter goal, you just can’t stop writing. You have to tell stories—even if they, like Gatsby, only become bestsellers after you’re gone.

In fact, there’s consolation in looking at bestseller lists over the decades. While you find many books there that are still read today, there are also many titles you’ve never heard of. Fame—in the form of bestseller status—can be fleeting.

Nonetheless, selling a lot of copies of your book usually means more money—or a film deal, which means more money. Excuse me a moment once more—Hollywood producers, I have a novel coming out with a strong female lead! (Book-to-film promo, check.)

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The Dreaded Synopsis

From Writers Helping Writers:

Many authors would rather write a whole new novel than cram the one they’ve already written into a five-hundred-word summary. If I wanted to write a short story, I would have written one. Right?

The reason we hate writing synopses is because they’re hard. The reason they’re hard is because, more than any other tool available to us, they show us what’s wrong with the novel we’ve labored over for months, if not years.

The synopsis is the equivalent of a house inspector—that man or woman who walks around with a clipboard and goes through the house you thought you were ready to sell, pointing out all the structural issues you either didn’t know about or pretended weren’t a problem: roof damage, termites, a saggy bearing wall, you name it. You can do all the fancy writing in the world. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with your novel, it will come out in the synopsis.

            That’s why we hate them.

            That’s why most agents ask for one.

Reading a synopsis is the quickest way to know if a novel will work or not. It’s also the surest way to find out if the author knows what they’re doing when it comes to things like structure, causality, story arc and characterization—you know, those critical developmental issues you hoped wouldn’t matter.

Guess what? They do.

If your plot is anecdotal, it will show up in the synopsis. If your protagonist doesn’t have a goal that they’re actively pursuing throughout the story; if there are no stakes, a weak antagonist, a plot that’s bursting with too much superficial business and no depth—yup, the synopsis will reveal all of that.

If you, the author, are willing to see it, the synopsis will be that heart-sinking moment of truth where you can no longer deny that this house is not ready to sell, not by a long-shot. It needs help. It might even need to be razed to the ground.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

A Bad Job of Email Targeting

PG just received the following email through the TPV email.


Noticed that you run an amazing plumbing business but aren’t running google ads to rank for the areas that you serve.

Stumbled on this software that gives you $500 for free in Google advertising budget that will help you get more clients.

Let me know what you think!

15 Rules For Advertising Books

From David Gaughran:

I started working in digital advertising way back in 2004 and while it is tricky to generalize about three very different ad platforms – Facebook, Amazon, and BookBub Ads – there are some general rules that I recommend everyone considers, before losing their shirts on book advertising.

Not least because books present a pretty unique marketing challenge when compare to generic products. Something which can surprise marketers who move into publishing.

I started working in digital advertising way back in 2004 and while it is tricky to generalize about three very different ad platforms – Facebook, Amazon, and BookBub Ads – there are some general rules that I recommend everyone considers, before losing their shirts on book advertising.

Not least because books present a pretty unique marketing challenge when compare to generic products. Something which can surprise marketers who move into publishing.

Rule #1: Don’t spend what you can’t afford

I mean it: don’t spend what you can’t afford. Experienced advertisers may look at this a little differently. But when you are starting out with ads, the old gambler’s rule should apply, i.e. only spend what you can afford to lose.

Certainly don’t borrow money for an ad campaign. That’s putting incredible pressure on yourself and multiplies the chances of a terrible outcome. Consider rolling your book profits back into marketing instead. It’s a nice, organic, and sustainable way to grow your business. And whether you have a lot to spend, or a little… start small.

Only increase your budgets when you are sure the ads are working. Ad by that I mean selling books, rather than generating traffic or hoovering up Likes; not all Likers blossom into lovers, alas.

When you are more experienced – i.e. when you have tried-and-tested targeting and you already know that your ad assets convert – you can start campaigns off much hotter from the get-go. But you can’t shortcut that process when starting out without taking huge and unnecessary risks.

Rule #2: do explore the wider world of marketing first

It’s really wise to explore other paths to readers before deciding advertising is the most suitable. Advertising sounds sexy… when it’s really tiresome number crunching for the most part. Or epic frustration as you spend hours wrestling with technical issues. And/or a boring slog learning how the systems work.

Book advertising is also a massive time-sink as well as a real money-pit. A whole legion of course sellers and tool floggers might claim that advertising is the cure for all your ills. But remember that it’s only one part of the big world of marketing. Other approaches may work better for you, especially when you’re starting out or your budget is restricted.

I especially recommend that beginners (and anyone on a budget) pay attention to the world of deal sites. It’s often the cheapest clicks you’ll get anywhere and no specialist knowledge is required.

. . . .

Rule #4: do survey the field before making your choice

Definitely do take a look at each of the three major ad platforms before deciding where to spend all your book advertising dollars: Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. Play with each of them a little. Dip your toe into some resources and get a feel for what works where. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each platform – because they are wildly different in so many ways.

Go deeper again, if you want my advice, and check your comp authors on each platform are viable targets. Because one of your key authors might not be targetable at all on Facebook but might have a healthy following on BookBub. Or they might have no followers on BookBub. Or might be too expensive to target on Amazon.

Time invested researching these things is often money saved on bad ads.

Rule #5: don’t ask this question

Please, I beg you, don’t ask “which ad platform is hot right now?” They’re all hot if you know what you’re doing and they’re all not if you don’t.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

Back Cover Copy Formula

From Writers Helping Writers:

Let’s be honest. Writing a book description isn’t fun. It’s grueling, mind-numbing work that I detest with every inch of my being. Mastering the art of back cover copywriting is an important skill. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for tips.

A while back, I sat through yet another webinar on the topic, and a formula emerged, a formula that finally resonated with me. So, I figured I’d share my discovery with you in the hopes that it’ll work for you, as well.

A 3-Step Formula

Back cover copy follows a simple three-step formula, but we do have wiggle room to experiment. With readers’ short attention spans these days, the advice is to keep the entire description to roughly 150-200 words. If your description runs 25 words longer than the desired range, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

Step 1: Headline/Hook

To find our hook we need to look at the main conflict of our story. We want readers to identify with said conflict, so don’t shy away from the emotional impact it causes the hero. Don’t dwell on it, either. Every word counts.

The following books sat on Amazon’s Top 10 Bestsellers List in Psychological Thrillers for weeks after the release, and each description employs this exact formula. These authors worked hard on their hooks, and it shows.

What would it take to make you intervene? — I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll 

It begins with a phone call. It ends with a missing child. — Guilty by Laura Elliot

When family secrets are unearthed, a woman’s past can become a dangerous place to hide… — Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green

Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away. — Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

They were all there the day your sister went missing. Who is lying? Who is next? — The Reunion by Samantha Hayes

She’s a daughter he didn’t know he had. Until she calls him… from death row. — 30 Days of Justis by John Ellsworth

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Readying Authors for Their Close-Ups

From Publishers Weekly:

When an editor recently asked me for a photographer’s credit for my author photo, I paused. The one I’d been using—a selfie taken amid a wall of vintage license plates in Tinkertown, N.Mex.—had, up until this moment, seemed to suit me fine. It was summer. I was relaxed. Genuinely happy, road-tripping through the country and writing every day, taking pictures of the Rio Grande and the cattle-flanked stretches through Texas, and getting my first taste of chili cherry pie. Blissfully unaware—as we all were—of what 2020 and beyond would bring. Unaware, too, that when I took the photo at the roadside attraction off the Turquoise Trail, this would eventually become my official author photo.

Anticipating the March 2022 publication of Proof of Me & Other Stories, a friend of mine suggested this winter that maybe it was time for an update. She connected me with a wonderful photographer (and colleague of mine), Cheryle St. Onge, and we set it up for the following day. I thought I was ready: I’d just had a haircut. I’d wear my turquoise necklace and find my lipstick from the far reaches of my backpack. On the eve of my big book debut, I believed I was set for my rite-of-passage moment and for getting an honest-to-goodness real Professional Author Photo from an honest-to-goodness real Professional Photographer. What could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong was the very thing that Susan Sontag had observed about picture-making in her 1977 book On Photography. Photographs, she wrote, often capture the mortality and vulnerability of their subject, and “do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, a miniature of reality.” And yet, I was hopeful that Cheryle, with her photographic finesse, might help me skip right over the whole mortality and reality part and capture instead just me as a writer. Ah well.

Before our session, Cheryle had suggested I research author photos to find ones I admired, so as to get a feel for my own aesthetic. Looking through dozens of photos of smart, intense faces of other women writers (and musicians—those of Patti Smith and Emmylou Harris were among my favorites) was an absolute gift—each face and setting a story in its own right. It got me thinking about what my own authorial face might say or convey about me and the nature of my work. I didn’t want to look “corporate” or overly polished.

I didn’t want to appear too intense, or vulnerable, or cloyingly pleasant. I wanted my expression to suggest that I was perhaps telling or hearing a joke, and I liked the idea of a textured background—with books or plants or a sense of place.

The conceit of cultivating the conditions to produce a single image that would approximate “Erica as writer” to the wider literary world felt both unnatural and ungainly, and yet there I was in a brightly lit studio, getting my photo taken, lipstick AWOL, borrowing Cheryle’s compact powder to reduce the shine on my forehead, while she endeavored to capture through the lens some version of the writer I sought to be.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG remembers overthinking any number of things a long time ago when he was young.

The 14 Literary Newsletters You Need in Your Inbox

From Electric Lit:

I get more email in a day than I can keep up with, let alone respond to. 

Most of us do. Collectively, we sent an estimated 319 billion emails each day in 2021. I’d love to know the breakdown of these messages. How many chains of rambling updates between old friends? How many are notes to confirm a long-awaited trip to visit family? My bet is these are in the minority, dwarfed by the vast number of promotions and automations. And I’m basing this on my own inbox. 

That’s one of the reasons why I love subscribing to newsletters. It isn’t the same as a note from a friend, but it also doesn’t require more time than reading—no input, no decisions, and no feeling guilty for inevitably getting behind on responding. Just a prompt to take a few minutes and read about whatever the topic.

Here are 14 of my favorite literary newsletters, the ones that I love seeing in my inbox as an excuse to sit for a minute and think about books, writing, and reading.

Fiction Matters

I first found Sara Hildreth’s Fiction Matters newsletter through the former English teacher’s Instagram account, which has a similar literary focus, and it’s become one of my favorites. Each Sunday, Hildreth shares smart, quick reviews of books she’s read, comments on literary news, as well as a round-up of what she’s loving, making, listening, or watching. The content is great, but the tone is wonderful—kind, warm, and relaxed, the perfect way to jump back into your inbox at the end of the weekend.

Also, the title here isn’t misleading. The newsletter features mostly fiction, with occasional nonfiction reads and recommendations. Most titles are literary fiction, but Hildreth does read across genres, as well.

Cost: The Fiction Matters newsletter is free, but there is a Fiction Matters patreon community if you’re looking for more.

. . . .

sweater weather

Electric Lit’s editor-at-large Brandon Taylor’s newsletter contains literary criticism that feels like a thought process, like his explaining an idea or unpacking a reaction and teasing it out to see how it works. 

Besides being a pleasure to sit with, these newsletters motivate me to read more carefully, to consider the media I consume in conversation, to stop breaking my brain scrolling—though if you, like me, aren’t always successful at this, Taylor is an amazing Twitter follow. 

In short: Must subscribe.

Cost: Free.

Electric Literature Newsletters

Electric Literature has three weekly newsletters, each arriving on a different day of the week. The Commuter, which goes out on Monday mornings, is a literary magazine with poetry, flash fiction, and graphic narratives. Each email includes one piece, as well as links to essays related to the broader topic, whether that’s aquatic drama or artistic influence. (Also, I can confirm, this email is a perfectly timed transition into the workweek even when you’re not commuting.)

Recommended Reading, which arrives on Wednesdays, features short fiction recommended by another author. It’s simple, but the personalized introduction to a story—explaining why it resonates, why the writer admires it—is lovely. I don’t know about you, but I tend to pay more attention, to engage more when someone recommends a piece to me.

Finally, the Friday round-up hits inboxes at the end of each workweek. This newsletter contains the best of Electric Literature’s essays, reading lists, and interviews, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything.

. . . .

Buzzfeed Books

The Buzzfeed Booksnewsletter sends out two emails each week. The Tuesday emails round up the best new books out each week. The list is usually broken up by genre—including nonfiction, romance, sci-fi, and more—with descriptions from members of the Buzzfeed team or Buzzfeed Books contributors. 

On Sundays, the Buzzfeed Books newsletter highlights reading lists from the week, like must-reads by AAPI author and audio fiction podcasts for every kind of reader.

Cost: Free.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

5 Ways to Hack Written Word Media Promos

From Written Word Media:

elf-publishing has been home to much innovation since the digital market opened. Authors have been on the cutting edge of new formats, marketing tactics and delivery methods. And we’ve been grateful to learn from this incredible, creative community over the years. 

One thing that always surprises and delights us is when authors find ways of using our services that we did not initially see or intend. In this post we’ll run down five creative ways authors have ‘hacked’ our products to maximize their return.

1. Double Targeting Similar Genres

Written Word Media promos are targeted by genre. This makes our promos effective because readers only get books that are in their favorite genres, and authors only pay to reach readers that are most likely to enjoy their book.

But what do you do if your book straddles multiple genres? Not every book fits neatly into a single genre, and not every reader exclusively reads in their ‘favorite’ genres.

Most authors simply pick a single genre that their book fits into, and promote to that audience. But this can leave sales on the table.

So, how are authors getting around this and hitting every reader who may like their book? By booking multiple promos on a single day in different genres and ‘double targeting’ the reader audience.

For example, an author could book a paranormal romance promo and fantasy promo on Bargain Booksy for the same book on the same day. By doing so, they are reaching more readers and expanding the reach of their promo. They also get around our requirement that a book can only be advertised on the same site in the same genre once every 30 days.

. . . .

Reader Reach Ad Campaigns run for 5 days whether you choose Facebook or Amazon for your ads. This run period was determined after extensive testing and because having a set period of days makes it easier for authors to effectively plan. A set period of days for the campaign also reduces cost as it is less work for our team if they know exactly how long each campaign will be.

2. Back to Back Reader Reach Ad Campaigns

But, some authors want longer campaigns, and they’ve found a way to do it. 

On our other brands, a book must wait 30 days after a promo before it can be promoted again in the same genre. This allows us to add new readers to the list, and keeps readers from seeing the same books too often.

But, with Reader Reach Ads, there is no such restriction. So, to extend campaign length, we see authors book back-to-back Reader Reach Campaigns for run periods anywhere from 10 to 30 days.

When this happens, our team will keep the same campaign running and continue to tweak and optimize over the course of the full run period. This longer run time both extends the time period that the book is advertised, but also gives our team even more time to tweak and optimize for the best results.

Link to the rest at Written Word Media

PG realizes that the OP is mostly promotion to sell the services of Written Word Media, but he found the information shared to be potentially useful.

Amazon Ads: Step-by-Step Walk Through for Beginning Authors

From Jane Friedman:

Amazon ads have long been a valued (and sometimes expensive) tool for self-published authors and traditional publishers alike to drive visibility and sales. But one key group has always been excluded from placing such ads: traditionally published authors. Such authors must rely on their publishers investing in ads or seek out alternatives, such as Facebook or BookBub. But that changed earlier this year when Amazon opened up their advertising platform to anyone with an Amazon Author Central account (which is, effectively, anyone who has authored a book).

. . . .

Traditionally published authors typically earn far less than self-published authors per copy. Despite pricing much lower, self-published authors earn more per copy than traditionally published authors, regardless of format. Since Amazon ads can easily cost 50 cents per click or more (with only a small percentage of clicks leading to a sale), it’s obviously challenging to profit off a campaign as a traditionally published author.

. . . .

This isn’t stuff they teach you in school, and most authors learn how to run Amazon Ads by first buying a course or book, then conducting lots and lots of testing.

. . . .

I’m not going to lie: there is a lot of terminology to learn and it will likely take you several months to fully understand what works for you (or if it works for all), in addition to investing money you can afford to lose.

What book(s) should you advertise?

A good opportunity for investment might be the first book in a series. Even if a traditionally published author earns only $1 per sale on average, if there are four or five books in the series and the reader goes on to buy the entire series, the advertisement can lead to positive earnings. This means genre fiction authors, who more often write in series, may be better positioned to benefit than, say, a debut author of memoir or fiction.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG has a feeling he’s going to be returning to Amazon advertising (and advertising elsewhere) in the future since he’s been on a learning curve about the nooks and crannies of Amazon ads.

However, he will comment on Jane’s thoughts about advertising only the first book in a series. Here are a few reasons that might not be a brilliant idea:

  1. People tend to be interested in new things. If a new book that is #3 in a series and has a good cover, good copy and some social media support, PG doesn’t think it’s a waste of money to promote it. Promoting any book in a series promotes the series as well. If someone buys #3 and likes it, she/he is a very good prospect to purchase #1 and #2 as well.
  2. As mentioned, New is generally a positive for attracting attention and the most recent books can generate their own publicity through reviews, etc. If you’re pushing #1 in a series that was published four years ago, you lose the “new” piece. Also, if readers of #1 in a series aren’t watching closely, they may miss subsequent volumes if those volumes don’t get meaningful promotion.
  3. Finally, advertising can build an author’s brand so when a reader sees yet another book by Author A, the reader is reminded that maybe they should check out some other books Author A has written.

The Vital Difference Between Plot and Story—and
Why You Need Both

PG apologizes for originally putting this post up with the wrong excerpt when he meant to include an excerpt from a post that appeared on Jane Friedman’s site.

Many thanks to K. for pointing out PG’s error.

All he has to say in his defense is that it appears the water problem at Casa PG is on its way to being fixed, but the plumber had to go get some additional plumberish materials to finish his work.

From Jane Friedman:

Writers buy plotting books by the dozen and do their best to create the plottiest plot that the world has ever seen. They stuff their novels with action-packed sword fights, explosions, fist fights, and screaming matches. Plot points, pinch points, and grandiose climaxes abound.

But the problem is this: in the world of great novels, Plot and Story are very different entities, and every great novel needs both.

Plot refers to all the external events that happen in a novel. The plot encompasses things like sword fights and explosions. It also encompasses the logical flow of the narrative as a series of cause-and-effect events. (Plot even encompasses your Inciting Incident—you know, that oh-so-important event that catapults your reluctant protagonist into the action in the first place!) Think of Plot as the external and highly visual part of your novel.

Story, on the other hand, refers to the internal transformation that your protagonist must make throughout the course of the novel in order (usually) to become a less flawed version of themselves by the end. Story tracks the character arc of the protagonist, showing us exactly how they get from point A (maybe selfish or cowardly) to point Z (maybe unselfish or brave). Story is largely internal, and it follows the emotions and thoughts of the protagonist as they try to make sense of (and adjust to) their ever-changing world. It is here in the Story where we see the protagonist slowly transformed by the events of the Plot.

Think of Plot as what’s happening to your protagonist and Story as what’s happening within your protagonist. And certain events force them to wrestle with their internal demons, fears, misconceptions, and prejudices until (finally) they come out the other side of your Plot as a changed person. (Or, possibly in a tragedy, not changed.) When that happens, the Story is done!

Novels that have an interesting Plot but not a deep Story are dramatic sequences of somewhat related external events that would rival any Hollywood action flick. But…those action-packed events don’t seem to have a throughline, and there is no emotional continuity for the reader to grasp hold of. Plot without Story is unrewarding for readers. In fact, neurologist Paul Zak found that both plot and story must be present for test subjects to pay attention to a narrative and feel empathy for the characters involved.

Here are seven ways to infuse your Plot with Story.

1. Design a clear character arc for your protagonist. Your protagonist is an imperfect person, because they would be totally boring if they already had everything figured out from the beginning. Decide which aspect of their imperfection your story will focus on. This will be their basic character arc. Here are some common (simple) arcs, but there are many more that vary in complexity.

  • Selfish to selfless
  • Cowardly to brave
  • Mistrusting to trusting
  • Deceitful to truthful
  • Lacking self-confidence to having self-confidence
  • Afraid to unafraid

2. Create a compelling backstory that makes your protagonist’s character arc make sense. If your protagonist is selfish, have a specific and concrete backstory that supports this flaw. The backstory you create will be sprinkled throughout the narrative like seasoning, helping the reader understand your protagonist and begin to empathize with them.

3. Make that character arc clear from the beginning of the novel. The opening scenes and chapters are the perfect place for your protagonist to show off their imperfection. If their character arc is cowardly to brave, the reader should see them acting cowardly (and what effect that has on their life and happiness) early in the novel.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

James Patterson shares his formula for success. It’s pretty simple.

From The Washington Post:

Halfway into his memoir, “James Patterson by James Patterson,” James Patterson takes a moment to discuss his writing process. It’s nothing fancy, he explains, and it starts with a folder stuffed with unused story ideas. “When the time comes for me to consider a new novel,” he writes, “I’ll take down the trusty-dusty Idea folder.”

Given Patterson’s fecundity, you have to ask: Is it ever not the time? Does the Idea folder ever go back to whence it came?

Patterson is among the world’s best-selling and most wildly prolific living authors. His books have sold more than 300 million copies. His new memoir is the 10th book he’s published so far this year, and one of four books he has slated for release this month. A checklist of books on his website includes nearly 400 titles, comprising thrillers, true-crime books, contributions to various children’s and YA series and collaborations with a variety of celebrities including a former president and a former Fox News host. Patterson, 75, insists he’s responsible for at least outlining every last one of these literary creations.

Patterson’s approach to writing is unapologetically pragmatic: Give ’em something irresistibly compelling, then give ’em more of it, quickly. It’s also the MO of his memoir, filled with snappy, short chapters and a lot of name-dropping, from Dolly Parton (the unlikely co-author of “Run, Rose, Run”) to Tom Cruise (potential movie collaborator) to James Taylor (patient at a mental hospital he once worked at). His writing process is pragmatic, too. His a-ha moment in terms of efficiency, he explains, came while writing 1993’s “Along Came a Spider”: Rather than fill out the story he’d outlined, he decided the outline was the novel. He likens this approach to Bruce Springsteen’s bare-bones “Nebraska” album, as if a minimalist aesthetic were the same thing as being satisfied with your first draft. Or perhaps Patterson is just pitching himself to a potential new celeb collaborator. (Don’t do it, Bruce!)

Patterson is a man of the people, as his sales figures decisively prove. But in his memoir, he also positions himself as a man of taste. A lengthy list of his favorite books is an exercise in careful balance of brows low and high: For every Lee Child, a Gabriel García Márquez; for every John Grisham, a Bernard Malamud.

That balancing act extends to his description of his own life. He’s college-educated and spent time as an advertising executive before becoming a novelist, but refers often to his humble roots in blue-collar Newburgh, N.Y. (“I’m kind of a working-class storyteller. I just keep chopping wood.”) He’s proud that his first novel, 1976’s “The Thomas Berryman Number,” won a prestigious Edgar Award, but self-effacingly says he wrote it while “still a literary twit.” He thrills at meeting John Updike but is more deeply heartened by a reader who tells him that the first book she ever read was a Patterson novel.

After a time, Patterson’s play-it-down-the-middle approach feels less like the remembrances of a Renaissance man and more like evasive, unassertive hedging. He mushily criticizes Jeff Bezos when asked to attend one of his private A-list get-togethers: “I didn’t feel Amazon always wielded its tremendous power for the good of readers, writers, or publishers. Just my opinion.” He goes anyway. (Bezos owns The Washington Post). He recalls golfing with former presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. When he spots them playing together, his prose goes squishy: “It’s the way things used to be in politics. Better, saner times.” You can feel a terrible novel about golf-based brinkmanship arrive in the Idea file.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG notes that Patterson spent a number years at a large New York advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson, prior to becoming an author.

While PG hasn’t seen this work experience highlighted very much in the stories about Patterson, he believes that what Patterson learned at JWT played a significant role in his success as a writer.

Side Note: PG also worked at J. Walter Thompson, although for a much shorter time and in a different location. Patterson was in the New York office and PG was in the Chicago office.

Their paths never crossed during PG’s employment, but, many years later, PG was on a panel with Patterson in New York City – he doesn’t remember who sponsored it.

The topic was Amazon. PG only spoke with Patterson briefly on that occasion. PG was on the panel because he was an outspoken proponent of self-publishing as a way for authors to control their own business and artistic futures while making more money and was not particularly oriented towards traditional publishers.

Needless to say, Patterson and PG did not find much to agree about.

One of PG’s observations about Patterson over the years is that he does a very good job of promoting himself in part because knows more about effective advertising and publicity than all of the marketing executives in all the publishers in New York City combined.

Getting Book Endorsements (Blurbs): What to Remember, Do, Avoid, and Expect

From Jane Friedman:

Seeking blurbs—that is, quotes and endorsements—is a pre-publication task that most writers absolutely hate.

However, unless yours is a front-list title from a major publishing house (in which case the publisher may get the blurbs for you), securing those important words of praise is up to you, the author. Not your agent or editor or publicist. You.

That means you have to ask established authors—people you may not know, who may have no particular reason for wanting to help you—to spend a significant chunk of time reading your book, write nice things about it, and affix their names to it forever-and-ever.

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would say yes to such an audacious request, yet people do, all the time; hardly a book is issued nowadays that doesn’t include a quote or two. The challenge isn’t how to get authors to provide blurbs; it’s how to get them to blurb your book.

With my third novel gearing up for release, I’ve been through the process three times. In some ways, the process has been similar each time, since behavior is shaped by temperament, and I’m still me. In other ways, it’s been different, since I’ve learned from experience (that is, from my mistakes).

I’ve also been on the receiving end of blurb requests. Experiencing the “blurb-seeking” process from the both sides of the desk has been quite illuminating. As I reflect on my responses and behavior as a potential blurber, I have new insight into the impact of my own actions—and, I suspect, the actions of others like me—as a hopeful blurbee.

. . . .

Unless the blessing of a specific expert is sought, I think it’s fair to say (in general) that who blurbs is more important than their exact words. “An engaging read” from a New York Times bestselling author with instant name recognition is, for most readers, more compelling than “one of the most fantastic books ever written” from someone they’ve never heard of. At the same time, getting that New York Times bestselling author to read and praise your book is hardly a slam-dunk.

For most of us, blurb-seeking is a balancing act between the clout of the potential blurber (aiming high) and the likelihood of obtaining a usable quote (aiming safe). Certainly, there’s nothing to be lost—except time—in writing to every famous author you admire in the hope that one of them will come through. On the other hand, there are so many pre-publication tasks that it’s hard to justify spending so much energy on a pursuit that’s unlikely to yield results—and what kind of results? How many blurbs do we actually need? Is quantity just as good as an A-list quote?

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG is of two minds about blurbs.

If the blurb is describing a traditionally-published book and is from another traditionally-published author, PG suspects that “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” is almost certainly in operation.

The blurbs that fall in this category often sound more like headlines than any indication that the blurber has actually read much of the blurbee’s book. The blurb could be applied to almost any other book of the same genre.

For indie books, PG finds that reviews from readers are more useful for him. He looks at them with a skeptical eye because who knows what’s going on in the reviewer’s head, but a little informal content analysis leads him to quickly decide if the reviewer sounds reasonably intelligent and reads the review with that in mind.

Since PG invariably reads a preview of any book he’s going to purchase before spending his hard-earned sheckels, he feels more informed about whether he’ll like the book or not than by a blurb from anyone else, famous or otherwise.

Why Testing BookBub Ads Targets Pays Off

From BookBub Partners:

For many advertisers, choosing author targets is one of the trickiest parts of running effective BookBub Ads campaigns. Unlike other ad platforms that have a limited number of authors available to target, BookBub Ads lets you reach the fans of any author with a following on BookBub, which means you have a lot of targets to choose from!

Author R.J. Blain has developed a rigorous process for testing BookBub Ads author targets to identify the best ones for her books. Back in October, she tested 64 individual author targets for a limited-time $0.99 deal on Hoofin’ It, the second book in a series of magical romantic comedies. During the 10 days the book was discounted, she served over 1.2 million ad impressions, garnered over 10,000 clicks, and sold an estimated 2,400 copies. And when she used the top performing targets to promote a new release in the series in May, it hit the USA Today bestseller list. Here’s how she did it!


Hoofin’ It was selected for a Featured Deal in our Supernatural Suspense category on October 22. This title is usually priced at $5.99, so R.J. used the $0.99 discount as an opportunity to test out new author targets for this title and this series. She was willing to lose some money on the test campaigns if she learned things that would improve her ads and set her up for success in the long run.

I wanted to see what reader behavior was like in October, try new-to-me targets, get a feel for general performance, and test new tools like the Related Authors suggestions. Additionally, I wanted to fluff my own audience for more efficient marketing later on, so when I do release a book, the audience is warmed and I spend less money for better results.

I ultimately get better advertising on a warmer audience. The general rule of branding is it takes people 18–20 times to become ‘comfortable’ with something due to exposure to it. So, by using an off-the-wall ad with a very limited audience, my self-target becomes a hive of people who are interested in what I have to sell. They’ll click more often AND buy more often.

Campaign Setup

Author Targets

When selecting author targets to test, R.J. looked for supernatural suspense, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy authors with sufficient audience sizes. Her goal was to find individual authors to target with each campaign, but if a promising author didn’t have a large enough audience on their own, she’d group a few together to bulk up the reach.

Anything below 5k tends to be too small and won’t give good results alone. Ideally, I’ll have a healthy group size of around 25k. That gets delivery.

Even more important than audience size was whether the author wrote similar content. She investigated each potential target to identify signals that suggested their audience would like her books as well. Some of the things R.J. considered when evaluating authors in her genre included:

  • Do the tropes, tone, and mood of their books match hers?
  • Would their readers be open to trying a self-published author?
  • Would their readers like a quirky story, and be receptive to her style of humor?

I need to reach people who are open to self-published authors since I self-pub, but I also need it to be from the pool of traditional authors because my books are not in Kindle Unlimited. It’s a very difficult wire to walk in a lot of ways.

To identify authors, R.J. puts herself in the headspace of her ideal reader. She spends a lot of time reading books in her genre and browsing retailers and sites like BookBub and Goodreads that readers typically use to discover books and authors. For this batch of tests, she also tried out the “Related Authors” suggestions in the BookBub Ads form. One of her test campaigns included three new author targets who had overlapping audiences with an author R.J. had successfully targeted with books in this series in the past.

The Related Authors tool wasn’t something I’d used much, and Sarah Noffke writes quirky things similar to me. I didn’t want to use myself as a starting point, but I also didn’t want to use a trad author; Sarah is more along the indie line of things, so she made a very good foundation for readers who are open to indie titles and might appreciate my type of quirky.

Ad Creative

In order to isolate the impact of her targeting, R.J. used the same ad creative for every one of her author tests. She used an image from the book cover of the protagonist and his alpaca sidekick, highlighted the limited-time deal price, and listed a few key elements of the story (“magic, mayhem, romance, & bodies”) to attract the right audience.

I want to find readers who will like my type of book, so I use an ad that won’t appeal to the masses; I want to catch those who like my style of humor.

Link to the rest at BookBub Partners

The article continues with a great many more details and tips.

PG has been doing a lot of experimenting with ads for Mrs. PG’s latest release and has discovered a number of tools designed to assist an author in improving the results of advertising one or more books. He’ll probably share some of his discoveries after he finishes. Suffice to say, there are many more tools available than there were when PG last explored this terrain.

Promote Your Book with Your Values

From Jane Friedman:

Like many authors, I had a book to promote during the COVID-19 pandemic and still today each one of us faces the threat of illness and too little bandwidth for a promotional blitz. Shilling our wares can be draining, so I decided to ask the unreasonable from my book promotion: that it give me something back.

At first this felt like a short cut. I was juggling Long-COVID, a full-time job, and the raising of a teen, so it seemed necessary to do what made me happy rather than adding to my exhaustion. I realized, looking back on past events, that the way to gain energy from book promotion is to focus on my values.

I’ll admit that this awareness started somewhat by accident. During the long promotion for a book of essays on chronic pain, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System, I was asked to do a few workshops for people with chronic pain hosted by nonprofit organizations. As I enjoy teaching and interacting with workshop participants, I knew how to promote and prep for these events. Unlike a reading, where I often feel like I’m begging audience members to sit passively and listen to me for an hour, a class felt like a dialogue, a chance to connect, even if it was on Zoom.

Then I started to think about the numbers. As an author, I’ve experienced the discomfort of an in-person reading with two people in the audience, both of whom are bookstore employees. The time invested in planning a reading—never mind the task of getting a bookstore to agree to host a university press author—rarely offered meaningful returns in terms of book sales or visibility.

When I began to offer free workshops with writing prompts built around my book’s theme, my audience counts were ten times what I’d been able to pull in for a reading. Plus, the focus shifted from “me” to “us”: I got a chance to interact and be spontaneous, to read and hear writing from participants, to dialogue about questions that emerged from writing prompts, and even to do some writing myself.

So when I had my next book to promote—an essayistic memoir about a single day in my life (Supremely Tiny Acts: A Memoir of a Day)—I thought up a format for online classes that allowed participants to write and share on what had happened to them that very day. These “Day-Ins” ended up providing moments of calm focus amid our anxious pandemic lives and were, even over Zoom, a great social bonding activity.

This doesn’t mean that every book promotion event needs to be a class. Instead, I realized, I wanted to do book events that do double duty, that allow me to align the things I care about with the time I spend on promotion. My personal values include community engagement, but they also include a wide array of causes from disability rights to racial justice to the environment.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG recognizes that, for the author of the OP, there is more than a little desire to evangelize her discoveries and improve the lot of humanity in general.

While PG doesn’t doubt that the gatherings and classes described in the OP were an enjoyable experience for the participants and are certainly a twist on the typical book tour, he wonders whether this is the best use of quite a few hours and more than a bit of energy by an author.

How many potential purchasers of the author’s books were reached? Yes, PG is certain that at least some of the attendees told their friends about the experience and some of those friends purchased the book, but what is the best use of an author’s time these days?

The online classes were certainly more productive than an old-fashioned if-this-is-Tuesday-I-must-be-in-Baltimore book tour for traditional bookstores, but it still took a lot of time.

PG’s assessment would be somewhat different if the Zoom classes had been recorded, then put online where anyone could access them. If he missed that in the OP, he apologizes for his oversight.

His point is that an author only has so much time and energy to expend during a day, week, month, year, and he suspects that, for many authors, that time and energy might be best focused on writing another high-quality book.

But, as usual, PG could be mistaken.

The Sad Young Literary Man Is Now a Middle-Aged Dad Keith Gessen wrote a memoir about family life. His wife, Emily Gould, is mostly okay with that.

From New York magazine:

Raffi Gessen-Gould, age 6, is an expert on these topics: Greek gods, international currency exchange, sharks, geology, when his father will go bald (when Raffi is a teenager), invisibility cloaks, waffles, slingshotting stretchy rubber snakes across the living room, making slime without his mom, and the benefits of getting slime stains on the couch (they feel good to touch). He is the second-tallest kid in his class. He can jump the farthest. He sleeps on the top bunk. The longest book he has ever read is 199 pages. He has not read his father’s new book, Raising Raffi: The First Five Years, which is 241 pages, and he does not seem in any hurry to do so. He did ask if he was responsible for the bad crayon drawing on the cover. (No.)

This Raffi — the real-life Raffi — will turn 7 in early June. The character Raffi in Raising Raffi will never be that mature. That Raffi is a creation of his father, Keith Gessen, a device through which Gessen explores his parental fixations: the pros and cons of teaching a child Russian or making a child play hockey, the problem of gentrifying schools, and conflicting camps of parenting advice. Raffi the literary creation is a bit of a hooligan — or, as his father puts it, a collection of “pain points.” That Raffi spends a lot of time doing stuff like punching his father in the nose and breaking down toddler gates to get into his parents’ bed at 2 a.m. That Raffi wonders what it’s like to sit on his infant brother Ilya’s head and follows through. Raffi the real person has outgrown all that now.

One recent Saturday evening, after his father opened the door to the 990-square-foot Brooklyn apartment Raffi and Keith share with the writer Emily Gould (Raffi’s mother and Keith’s wife) and Ilya, now 3, I asked Raffi how he felt about a book coming out with his name in the title.

He’s not a kid who limits his answers to areas in which he possesses expertise. “I don’t know,” he said.

Words are the family business. Gessen, 47, was a co-founder of the literary magazine n+1 and has published two novels. Thirteen years ago, Vanity Fair called him the “red-hot center to the Brooklyn literary scene,” or “at least close to it.” Gould, 40, has published two novels and a book of nonfiction, though she’s best known for her work at the media-gossip website Gawker, where her funny, confessional writing helped define the voice of the early-aughts internet. The two very publicly hooked up in 2007, not long after Gould described for Gawker’s audience Gessen bartending at an n+1 party with “tufts of black chest hair peeking from the unbuttoned collar of his American Apparel polo.”

Link to the rest at New York magazine

The publisher of the book, Viking, has not seen fit to set up Look Inside on Amazon, (because, maybe, their brains have melted due to Hatred-of-Amazon-Burnout or some underpaid and overworked temp assistant didn’t do the listing right or piracy or some Uber-Big-Shot in Europe believes no one should look inside a book before they have purchased it) but PG will override his initial impulse not to show a Kindle cover link because he liked the cover.

Observant visitors to TPVx will also note that there’s no Buy button on the big, eye-catching image of the cover below, so PG inserted a Buy Button of his own creation below the lovely cover photo.


TikTok Mounts a ‘Stealth Stand’ in Abu Dhabi

From Publishing Perspectives:

There’s a luminous, unmarked circular stand on the exhibition floor of the 2022 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, tucked away near the screen-flashing National Geographic stand and the Children’s Oasis activity area.

In the 73,000-square-meter exhibition hall, this may be the only installation without branding all over it. It looks like a bedroom-sized Stonehenge, but instead of stones, these are lighted rectangles, standing on end in a circle—they might even be books in some imaginations.

One giveaway to whose installation this might be? The colors. Watermelon, white, and a bright-green cousin of turquoise.

Inside this bevy of monoliths, there’s a small round revolving table with a ring light on a stick. When Publishing Perspectives looks in, a boy, maybe 5 or 6 years old is spinning on the revolving platform, grinning into the smartphone-camera inside the ring light. He’s loving it. He’s making a fast video of himself with a helpful, watchful assistant. And this is TikTok’s booth at the sprawling Abu Dhabi book fair.

On the left side of the entrance, there’s a small QR coded note, but still you don’t see the word TikTok. Only the logo.

And that’s all it takes. A report from Wallaroo Media in late April indicates that TikTok worldwide has more than 1 billion monthly users, many opening the app some eight times per day, and logging in from at least 154 nations in as many as 75 languages.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

There’s a photo of the TikTok booth in the OP. If you have ever spent much time at trade shows, the exhibit space will look as unusual as it sounds in the description.