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 LatvianLiterature.lv—will be touting some distinctly extroverted success at Frankfurter Buchmesse.

. . . .

The state-supported LatvianLiterature.lv 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 LatvianLiterature.lv 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:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Tiktok
Goodreads

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.

Hey!

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!

Goals

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.

x

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.

What Do We Lose—and Gain—As Book Tours Move Online?

From The Literary Hub:

When I was young, in a distant century, there was an odd feature of the literary community: celebrated authors writing essays for magazines or newspaper book sections chronicling the horrors of their tours. Usually amusingly, sometimes just trying to be. Laments about arriving at a bookstore to find many people waiting, but no copies of the book. Or many books but no people, because someone had forgotten to promote the event (or there was a playoff game in any relevant sport that night). A reading for five people, two of whom were the mother and father of the bookstore manager, under orders to look attentive and enthused. Or, airline chaos with a luggage follies subplot. Hotel booking failures, weather events. Interviewers confusing the author for someone entirely else. (This is real, by the way, happened to someone I knew well.)

The lede buried in all of this, for today’s writers (and readers) is, of course, that there were book tours once. All over. For so many authors. There used to be a joke that in October you couldn’t go through an airport without colliding with a writer on tour. I went cross-Canada from the start of my career, and down into the United States, at a time when I was barely known. And in most cases there were actual people gathered for a reading and signing, besides the manager’s parents. An author coming into town could be an event of sorts, back when.

Sometimes a colossal one. One older friend had a launch in Toronto one night. I went with a third, mutual friend. The bookstore was… flat-out mobbed. Buzzing. Hundreds of the city’s best and brightest had gathered. The author was well known and well liked in the legal community and word had definitely gotten out. No slackness on the part of publicists or bookstore at all. People were lined up holding three, four, five copies of the new book to be signed.

I got in line with two copies (the mutual friend elected to mingle and chat). When I finally arrived at the signing table the author leaped up and we embraced. I said, “X, this is amazing!”(His name isn’t really X, by the way.)

X said, “Guy, you understand nothing!”

I said, “Always a possibility. Why, in this case?”

“Because tonight, tonight, I will sell three quarters of all the books I am ever going to sell of this title!”

But he did sell them. (And the book is still in print, decades after. Just checked.)

For my own second book, as a callow thirty-one year old, I remember arriving in a city for two days allocated to media and a signing. The local publicist met me and handed me a printout of my schedule. I looked at it and blinked. There were ten events. Five radio gigs, two television, one magazine interview, one newspaper interview, and the bookstore signing that night. Plus what I always call “drive-by signings,” when you drop into a store to sign their stock and head off into the midday sun, or whatever, tipping your hat.

. . . .

Is a tour really the best way to allocate budget and time? Will it be a painful experience? Awkward for everyone? Might email or telephone interviews with whatever media exists in a given city not be smarter? While aggressively going the online route: magazines, blogs, social media? Or, more recently, Zoom conversations with an audience logging in and asking questions? One rarely loses luggage en route to one’s computer, after all.

What’s been lost in the transition is the personal. The direct connection with readers. If you’ve spent, as I do, years writing a book at your desk, brooding and swearing, but then find yourself in a library’s reading room, church hall, bookstore, literary festival, to encounter those who have come out to express their affection for your work… that’s profoundly rewarding.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

5 Ways to Use Fiverr to Publish Your Book

From Self Publishing with Dale:

When I first decided that I wanted to write a novel I have to admit I was a bit naïve going into the process. I was fumbling my way through and asking questions to authors that I knew on a regular basis.

. . . .

As soon as I hit my word target I realized there was a lot more work to go just to get it to a point where I could consider publishing it. This is when I took to Fiverr and other freelance sites to find experts that can assist me with the post-writing work of creating a book.

The results were a mixed bag, but on the whole I highly recommend at a minimum getting ideas from sellers on Fiverr if you are writing a book.

. . . .

1. Finding an editor

I created a job on multiple sites (mainly focused though on Fiverr and Upwork) to try and find an editor that could take my rough draft and help me get it closer and closer to a finished product. I received a lot of responses from both sites and I quickly realized I needed to be asking more questions to help weed out all of the people responding to my gig.

I asked questions like: How many YA books have you edited? How many books have focused on fan fiction or Norse myths? I would recommend that you think about these things prior to listing your jobs so you can more efficiently get through what will be quite a large volume of people submitting bids or applying to your job.

I ended up paying $350 for the first round of edits on a 53,000-word novel (as an aside, the novel finished around 61,000 words). I got incredibly lucky or did a decent job of vetting the editors because the person I found was amazing, efficient, and literally made all the difference in the world to my book.

Most of the online services would have cost triple the amount of money and would not have turned the book around in three working days. This was an incredible value and I am extremely happy with the choice I made to list this job.

2. Creating a Book Cover

My next gig that I listed was to have a graphic designer help me create a proper book cover for my eBook. I decided to focus on just an eBook release so I only needed a front cover. The volume of responses that I got from this job was a bit overwhelming and there was a very wide range of prices.

I tried a couple of sellers for this and provided them with the information they requested to take a crack at the book cover. The results of this job varied wildly from really terrible designs to ones that were okay but unusable. I ended up creating my own book cover using Canva and some ideas that I picked up from the various Fiverr designs that came my way.

I ended up spending around $150 for these services in total and ultimately didn’t use the results other than to influence the final book cover design. In the grand scheme of things this is a small price to pay to get some creative ideas and I do think that you can get usable book covers this way although I think I would encourage paying on the higher end of the bids as this was definitely an area where I got what I paid for with each design.

3. Copy for my Amazon listing

As soon as I got through a few rounds of edits (each round cost me the same as I used the same seller). I was ready to publish my book. In order to do that you have to do things like prepare the copy for the Amazon listing which is almost an art in itself.

Ultimately, I ended up using the same seller that did the editing for my book to help write (really edit) the copy that would go up in all of the online bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

This was a modest cost of $50 and it made a huge difference in what I released. They expertly guided me through how to entice people to read the book by making it less of a short summary and more of a comparison piece to other similar books and shows that the reader might also like. I would not have thought of doing that without their assistance, but it makes complete sense.

Link to the rest at Self Publishing with Dale

PG would be interested in any experiences visitors have had, good or not-so-good, hiring help with writing/publishing from Fiverr, Upwork or other similar online service marketplaces.

7 Books About the Chinese Exclusion Act

From Electric Lit:

p until my early 20s, I had never heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act. I remember taking classes on Mississippi history during my childhood in Oxford, then Texas government, and later the story of the Alamo during my teenage years in Austin. Our history textbooks were heavy and thick, always a pain to take home. Still, for all their pages, they never discussed that period of history when an entire group of people was barred because of the threat they posed to white labor and racial purity. It wasn’t until I took an intro to Asian American studies course in my senior year of college that I was introduced to that significant moment of American history: in 1882, President Chester A. Aurthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act (then known as the Chinese Restriction Act), which banned Chinese laborers from entering the country for ten years.

In my debut novel, Four Treasures of the SkyDaiyu, the 13-year-old narrator, is kidnapped from her home in Zhifu, China and smuggled across the Atlantic Ocean, where she is sold to a brothel in San Francisco. From there, Daiyu journeys to Idaho, hoping to find her way back home. It is not just the physical journey that stands in her way, however—Daiyu is in America at the height of anti-Chinese sentiment, arriving just on the heels of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. It is this pervasive hatred, this revulsion of the “moon-eyed heathen,” that poses the greatest threat to her return—not the wilderness nor the cold of winter.

The Chinese Exclusion Act is not a singular moment of anti-Chinese action in our history. Years before, for example, came the Page Act, which indirectly banned Chinese women from entering, thus contributing to the lopsided demographics of Chinese immigrants for years to come. Decades before that was People v. Hall, which ruled that the Chinese—following precedence from Section 394 of the Act Concerning Civil Cases—were not allowed to testify against white citizens in court, claiming they were “a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior.” When examining the legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act, we must also consider what came before as well as what came after, and the ugly culmination of violence and legislative escalation that leads us to where we are today. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG would have been happy to embed an Amazon ad that would allow visitors to examine the first several pages of the author’s new book, but, as PG mentioned earlier, the geniuses at Flatiron Books, the publisher of the book, didn’t have Look Inside working so PG could embed the ebook ad and have it work.

The Effect of Book of the Month Club on Book Sales

From Book Riot:

I have a confession to make: until I started doing research for this article, I had no idea that Book of the Month is almost 100 years old. That tells me two things: for one, it seems that I live under a rock; for another, it speaks to the level of success of Book of the Month’s rebranding strategy. Now, does this mean that it is all-around successful for everyone, authors included? That’s an altogether different question.

WHAT IS BOOK OF THE MONTH?

The short answer: Book of the Month (BOTM) is a subscription service that lets you choose from seven (as of March 2022) books, then it sends you a hardcover copy of the one you picked. If you like more than one of the choices, you can opt to buy add-ons for an extra fee.

The long answer: throughout its history, Book of the Month has been a book club, a subscription service, and a cultural phenomenon. It launched in 1926, the brainchild of Harry Scherman, Max Sackheim, and Robert Haas. Based in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, Book of the Month Club identified a market for a mail order book distribution service. It became an incredible success in a relatively short time: its initial 4,000 subscriber list expanded to 60,058 by 1927. This was by and large due to its two main tenets:

  1. On one hand, it tapped into the middle-class American wish to, as Caitlin Gannon puts it, “stay current.” By offering them a new book vetted by a panel of editorial experts, the company managed to make them feel that subscribing was the key to accomplishing that goal. The panel in question was composed of Dorothy Canfield, Henry Canby, William Allen White, Heywood Broun, and Christopher Norley; and over the next few decades, they became synonymous with Book of the Month Club.
  2. On the other hand, buying books in 1926 was not half as simple as it is today. Bookstores were set in urban areas, making it hard for a lot of people to make the trip. The convenience of offering these books straight to their doorstep was a major factor to Book of the Month Club’s success.

. . . .

DOES BOOK OF THE MONTH HAVE AN EFFECT ON BOOK SALES?

In the past, it absolutely did. Book of the Month Club’s first selection was The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger were also selections in 1936 and 1951, respectively. In 1978, Nelson DeMille’s debut novel By the Rivers of Babylon was another Book of the Month Club pick, at the beginning of what became a wildly successful career.

But what about Book of the Month’s current iteration? Does it make any difference to sales? Well, that can be a little hard to identify.

. . . .

In order to find the answer, I reached out to authors, editors, and agents. I was particularly interested to hear from bestselling author Amor Towles’s agent, Dorian Karchmar at WME, as two of his three published novels have been Book of the Month picks. As it turns out, it’s not as straightforward as it may seem. As Karchmar told me,

“Amor’s novels are so beloved, the growth of his fanbase so organic, word-of-mouth-based, and deeply supported by booksellers (independent booksellers, most especially), librarians, and other recommenders, that I wouldn’t try to make the case that Book of the Month Club played a signal role in the success of A Gentleman in Moscow or The Lincoln Highway.”

She did make a case for Book of the Month making a real difference in other cases: “I have absolutely seen the impact of a BOTM selection when it comes to authors and novels that are on the brink of breaking out to the next level, and have benefitted significantly from BOTM’s curation and skilled deployment of Instagram.”

. . . .

Even when exact sales numbers aren’t available, partly because of the reasons mentioned above and partly because others told me it was company policy not to reveal figures, there are factors to consider: social media engagement is a considerable one. Kylie Lee Baker, whose debut novel The Keeper of Night was a selection last November, told me that she doesn’t have actual book sales numbers because she hasn’t received her first royalty statement yet. But she “definitely saw a significant increase of people tagging me on Instagram with BOTM copies in November.” The site also features over 6,000 reviews of her book, indicating that, not only was her novel chosen by a great number of subscribers, but it generated enough interest for those subscribers to log back in and take the trouble to leave a review.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Which Social Media Platform Is the Best?

From Jane Friedman:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest … Where do you start? How do you find the time? What do you post? Do you have to be on all of them?

Before you scroll through or dismiss this entirely, I’m going to ask you to take a moment to breathe.

Most of the advice that we see online is geared toward people who are trying to build a business and already use social media regularly. But what if you don’t spend time on social media? Maybe you have an account but it’s dormant, and all you want to do is sell some books and meet some other writers. Let’s start the very beginning.

We writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are working on building a portfolio and pitching articles. Others are building a following that could become a readership for a book we will be publishing. And still others want to approach influencer status and may be willing to spend more time on social media than the average writer.

Before diving in, consider your goals

Do you want to sell more books?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.

Do you want to grow your email list?
Hint: Take your pick, any social media platform will do.

Are you promoting your blog or articles you’ve written?
Hint: Facebook and Pinterest might be your best bet.

Do you write poetry (micro work) that you want to publish directly to a platform?
Hint: Twitter and Instagram might be your best bet.

Are you trying to connect with people and share more personal information?
Hint: Instagram and Facebook might be your best bet.

Let’s break down the platforms.

Instagram

Best if you want a little bit of everything; writing, photography and/or video

Full disclosure, this one is my favourite because in addition to writing, I also love photography. I like taking pictures and matching them to my text. Even though I know that a lot of people won’t take the time to read what I write, there are enough that do. To date I’ve made a substantial number of contacts this way. As Instagram competes with other sites, more features are being added. You can create short videos (aka Reels) and longer live videos. As a bonus, since it is under the same umbrella as Facebook, you can choose to automatically crosspost on Facebook. This is where a lot of people start to have heart palpitations since it sounds complicated, but it really is as easy as sliding a toggle.

Twitter

Best if you want to focus on one liners and short text

If you have time, prefer to stick to text, and if you can think fast (the average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes), then Twitter might be the platform for you. This is where agents and editors like to hang out, so there’s a good chance that you’ll hear about the latest trends or what they are specifically looking for. I have also found that quite a few magazine editors post their wishlists on there, and some will even answer your questions. If you are trying to get a reporter’s attention, this is a great platform for that. This comes in handy if you are trying to be featured in an article.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Communities: Why They’re Important and How to Build One

From Digital Pubbing:

As an author, your community consists of your readers, your fans, people who support your work. In addition to selling more of your work, or having a successful launch, your community can be a great place to share ideas, engage and connect with fans, and give people with shared interests a space to belong.

You can build your community, whether you’re an author or some other sort of content creator. I’m a podcaster, and one of my favorite parts of podcasting is interacting with our listeners and our community.

. . . .

There are a lot of places where you can build your community and give them a central place to hang out and reach you. One interesting one is Substack, or some sort of newsletter service. Substack has an interesting case study about Caroline Chambers, a writer whose cookbook proposal was rejected, but she turned the proposal into “a thriving reader-support Substack.” As of the time of writing, she had over 11,500 free subscribers and 3,000 paid subscribers, and she started earning money for her work within a year of moving to Substack.

The gist is she posts once per week, easy to follow recipes that people can use when they don’t feel like cooking. She shares her newsletter on social media often, and runs regular promotions. Her call-to-action (CTA) is “Subscribe for $35/year, the price of a cookbook.”

You can choose to make your community free or paid. Sometimes when you have to pay, the community is called membership. The Membership Guide has a lot of resources, mostly related to how journalists can create membership programs. With membership, the idea is your readers are your equals, and you deliver content they value. For membership programs to work, make sure you listen and experiment and offer flexibility.

Link to the rest at Digital Pubbing

PG would be interested in comments about using a Site/Service like Substack vs. a blog + mailing list to build an online community.

A Marketing Revamp for your Older Book Title

From Writers in the Storm

10 Strategies to Reignite an Older Title

Whether it’s a single book or your entire backlist, here’s a quick rundown of marketing strategies that can help you revive and reignite a book that no longer falls in that “new release” window.

#1 Do a Cover Update

If your book is more than a year old and not selling well, re-do the cover. Find a professional cover designer that has a strong portfolio in your genre and get their help.

Related reading: Book Covers 101: Updating Your Cover

#2 Do a Goodreads Giveaway

Get yourself set up and commit to networking with the winners and build your presence on the site.

Related video: Allessandra Torre’s video on promoting your book with Goodreads

#3 Do a Limited-Time Discount Promotion

Go as low as you can go for 2 or 3 days (fewer days creates urgency) and submit the book to sites that are dedicated to promoting Kindle deals.

#4 Run BookBub Ads

Because BookBub ads are so visual, this will work especially well with a new cover. When using book marketing strategies like this, be smart about running your ads to target those who are most likely to resonate with your book, regardless of its pub date.

Related reading [with video]: Tutorial: How to Use BookBub Ads to Promote Any Book

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Do Blurbs Actually Work?

From CounterCraft:

“Luminous, sui generis, and above all brave. This newsletter is a work of startling originality.” – The New York Review of Newsletters

“Counter Craft is like the bastard child of William Shakespeare, Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison, and Jane Austen all mixed together.” – Steven King (no relation)

“A tour-de-force triumph equal parts haunted and haunting.” – The New Substacker

Blurbs. Few parts of the publishing process cause more anxiety for writers. As a blurb requester, it’s stressful and a bit pathetic to beg for praise from writers you may have never met. As a potential blurber, the number of requests can be overwhelming and blurbing is always time consuming. Hell writers have been complaining about blurbs since the dawn of, well, blurbs. In the 1930s George Orwell said:

Question any thinking person as to why he ‘never reads novels’, and you will usually find that, at bottom, it is because of the disgusting tripe that is written by the blurb-reviewers…Novels are being shot at you at the rate of fifteen a day, and every one of them an unforgettable masterpiece which you imperil your soul by missing.

While blurbs might suck, it doesn’t follow that blurbs are unimportant or don’t work. About every month I see a writer—sometimes an emerging writer, sometimes a well-published and acclaimed one—ask, “Do blurbs ACTUALLY work?” Typically this is followed by a sentiment like “I’ve never picked up a book in a bookstore and bought a book based on a blurb.” (Note: I wrote a draft of this newsletter, including the above paragraph, a few weeks ago before today’s twitter blurb discourse. This newsletter is not subtweeting anyone specific.)

Do Readers Actually Buy Books Based on Blurbs?

Yes, sometimes. I myself have bought books thanks to blurbs now and then. Recently, I was browsing a translated literature table and saw The Houseguest by Amparo Dávila. I’d never heard of the author, but the book had blurbs from Carmen Maria Machado and Julio Cortázar so I thought, hell, let’s give this author a try! I’m glad I did.

Whenever blurb discourse heats up, plenty of readers say blurbs are a factor. So yes, they can sell books.

At the same time, yes, it is perhaps true that blurbs are rarely the deciding factor. Most likely a potential reader has heard word of mouth recommendations, read reviews, or simply seen the cover all over the place before they even pick up the book to see the blurbs. But that’s actually the point. Most of the work that blurbs do happens long before a customer sees the book on the table.

The blurbs might be what put the book on the table in the first place.

How Blurbs Sell Books

The thing one always has to remember about publishing is that the sheer number of books published each year is enormous. Even ignoring the countless self-published books, there is an avalanche of traditionally published books each month. It’s unending. Because of this, everyone—readers, reviewers, booksellers, etc.—has to find ways to winnow the number down to something manageable. There is simply no possible way a human could read every book published to “decide for themselves” what’s worth reading or promoting or placing on the bookstore shelf. It’s just impossible.

Take for example the “most anticipated” lists that appear in every magazine every year. How are those books picked? It’s not because the list writer has read 100,000 forthcoming 2022 books and picked the best. It’s not that they’ve read 10,000 or even 1,000. They’re reading a tiny fraction of what’s forthcoming and sometimes include books they can’t possible have read because they aren’t in galleys yet.

Blurbs help winnow down the flood. They are only one of many winnowing factors, but they are one of them. To use publishing speak, blurbs especially help with “positioning” a book. Is a debut novel literary horror fiction? A commercial thriller? Meditative autofiction aimed at millennial readers? Blurbs help signal where a book fits in the marketplace and the reader’s shelf. Maybe they aren’t an objective measure of quality, but they’re actually a pretty good measure of a book’s milieu.

Link to the rest at CounterCraft and thanks to Elaine for the tip.

Why Do Some Authors’ Books Get a Branded Look?

From Eye on Design:

When Charlotte Strick and Claire Williams Martinez of Strick&Williams were invited to design Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy, Strick was already intimately familiar with the work. As the designer of The Paris Review, the magazine that serialized Cusk’s first book in the series, Strick had already acquainted herself with the roving narrative, which traces the journey of a woman enroute to Greece and the strangers she meets along the way. As three books, hatched one after the other like eggs, it only made sense to design Outline, Transit, and Kudos as a trio, with a “spare but evocative” vibe, as Strick put it, which bridges together each part of the whole.

While designing one cover or jacket requires the designer to conjure a single visual solution, crafting a cohesive look for such a project creates an added challenge. Each cover must encapsulate the story within while simultaneously maintaining some coherent iconography that can run through every title—not unlike a magazine design. And that design challenge and opportunity is magnified to the extreme when all of an author’s books take on a clearly defined aesthetic, which Cusk’s eventually did with work by Farrar, Straus & Giroux creative director and designer Rodrigo Corral.

Such comprehensive cover design initiatives tap into the same power as branded objects. It might seem dismal to compare an author to a brand. The writer—the literary purveyor, if you will—is indispensable, and each book they produce is a unique object. To group them together in a branded package like bottles on a drug store shelf can seem reductive, dystopian even, at its face. But this is essentially what publishers do when they commission several books by one author to be designed in a similar fashion. It’s a way for the publisher to associate a particular writer with a visual identity. And ultimately, despite any venal ambitions on behalf of publishers, the designs they require can be demanding and gratifying artistic projects for book designers.

Corral’s covers are the ones Cusk is perhaps now most well-known for. They’re white, modern—brutalist almost—with one slightly oversaturated, often metaphorical photo in the center of each. Amid the swirl of illustrated covers as of late, it seems unique to find photos on the covers of novels. While it sometimes risks narrative misinterpretation, as in Peter Hujar’s enigmatic photo on the cover of A Little Life, for Cusk’s books, it works, perhaps because her writing tends to take on broad philosophical questions. “So much of the [Outline trilogy] takes place in transit and on planes,” Corral explains. “The reading experience is quite similar to eavesdropping. You cannot stop listening or reading.” Fittingly, the image on the third installment of the Outline series is the contemplative view one experiences when peering out an airplane window.

Link to the rest at Eye on Design

PR and Marketing Questions Answered

From Writer Unboxed:

Several years ago in a campaign wrap-up call for an author’s first self-published book (she had a few books with big houses in previous years), she commented to me that she was disappointed by the lack of blogger reviews I had gotten for her novel. Fair enough – most of the bloggers that had covered her in the past either hadn’t responded to my outreach, expressed that they had too much on their plate, or were nowhere to be found. When a book is self-published, publicists often receive a different response from media and influencers, so the quiet didn’t weigh on me heavily. When I told my client we had secured and paid for a BookBub deal that lead to more than 27k downloads and dozens of favorable Amazon reviews in just a week’s period of time, creating a halo-effect for her previous works and introducing thousands of new readers to her work, she said nothing except to ask what was BookBub was. (It was in our proposal and letter of agreement.) Some months later, I heard she had gotten an offer from one of Amazon’s publishing imprints for that very same book. Bravo!

Let’s break this apart.

-We were at a turning point in the blogging world. The reason for my poor showing on the blogger front was perhaps less about me doing the work and more about the fact that bloggers weren’t doing so much blogging anymore. Hello #bookstagram

-BookBub was founded in 2012. Think about when you first started using this influential platform. For any author that has gotten a BookBub deal – how thrilled were you?

-Amazon started its publishing arm in 2009 and launched several imprints in its first two years. And that was over a decade ago. I love the idea of more authors having a shot at living their dreams, but what does it mean for PR?

This morning I was listening to David Bowie’s song CHANGES. I love Bowie–the oddity, the wandering, the uniqueness, the fact that he was always ahead of the time, THE CHANGES.

Here in book world, you may have noticed some of the changes–popular books out of stock, less attendance at Zoom events, publishers not wanting authors to do virtual bookstore events, delayed shipments, authors creating their own platforms on social media, lots of Instagram Live programming, less reviews, not much differentiation of books in media coverage.

M.J. Rose, Founder of Authorbuzz; Co-founder Blue Box Press; Bestselling novelist (current book out is The Fashion Orphans with Randy Susan Meyers)

We are finding with so many more books being released than ever before, one of the most important new developments is that the book’s Amazon page is more important than it ever has been.

There’s a limited amount of information any marketing can impart. Ads interest people in the book but what sells the book is the book description and reader reviews and excerpt on the Amazon page.

So what is key? The book description needs to help the reader know quickly if the book is for them or not. Not adjectives about how good the writing is or how profound (insert any other word) but rather what kind of book this is.

You need to tell the reader – hey if you love this author and that author – this book is for you – to give them examples – to explain. Then the description needs to be no more than 3 -4 tight and powerful paragraphs.

Here is an example of one that works so well:

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After LifeThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s genre-defying tour de force.

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG suspects that the traditional public relations business has become very difficult after the Covid shutdowns.

PR is like advertising, although you’re hiring a PR agency to get you free (if you don’t think about the fees you pay to the agency) publicity for your book, product, services, etc.

Typically, the PR agency has good contacts in all areas of the traditional media and uses those contacts to pitch stories to, for example, The New York Times.

However, not all is well with traditional media these days. Here’s a graph showing paid circulation of the Sunday NYT (typically the largest circulation edition) over time:

You will note that fewer and fewer people have been reading the New York Times each year for the past seven years. And the graph shows how many people are receiving the Times, not whether they are actually reading some, all or none of the paper.

PG suspects that PR agencies have online experts, but he also suspects that an Instagram genius can make more money on an independent basis than she/he could as the employee of a PR agency.

This is speculation on PG’s part. He’s happy to hear opinions from others with more actual knowledge.

PG apologizes for the bad image quality. You can find the original Statista graph here.

Metamorphosis: Facebook and big-tech competition

From The Economist

There comes a time in every great bull market where the dreams of investors collide with changing facts on the ground. In the subprime boom it was the moment when mortgage default rates started to rise in 2006; in the dotcom bubble of 2000-01 it was when the dinosaurs of the telecoms sector confessed that technological disruption would destroy their profits, not increase them. There was a glimmer of a similar moment when Meta (the parent company of Facebook) reported poor results on February 2nd, sending its share price down by 26% the next day and wiping out well over $200bn of market value. That prompted a further sell-off in technology stocks.

Along with low interest rates, a driver of America’s epic bull run of the past decade has been the view that big tech firms are natural monopolies that can increase profits for decades to come with little serious threat from competition. This belief explains why the five largest tech firms now comprise over 20% of the S&P 500 index. Now it faces a big test.

Since listing in 2012 Meta has exemplified big tech’s prowess and pitfalls. For a glimpse of the caricature, consider the American government’s antitrust case against it first launched in 2020. It describes an invincible company in a world where technology is perpetually frozen in the 2010s: “this unmatched position has provided Facebook with staggering profits,” America’s Federal Trade Commission wrote in its lawsuit.

Examine the firm’s fourth-quarter results, though, and its position seems rather vulnerable and its profits somewhat less staggering. It comes across as a business with decelerating growth, a stale core product and a cost-control problem. The number of users of all of Meta’s products, which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is barely growing. Those of the core social network fell slightly in the fourth quarter compared with the third. Net income dropped by 8% year on year and the firm suggested that revenue would grow by just 3-11% in the first quarter of 2022, the slowest rate since it went public and far below the average rate of 29% over the past three years—and below the growth rate necessary to justify its valuation.

Meta’s troubles reflect two kinds of competition. The first is within social media, where TikTok has become a formidable competitor. More than 1bn people use the Chinese-owned app each month (compared with Meta’s 3.6bn), a less toxic brand that is popular among young people and superior technology. Despite attempts by Donald Trump to ban it on national-security grounds while he was president, TikTok has shown geopolitical and commercial staying power. Just as the boss of Time Warner, a media behemoth, once dismissed Netflix as “the Albanian army”—an inconsequential irritant—Silicon Valley and America’s trustbusters have never taken TikTok entirely seriously. Big mistake.

The second kind of competition hurting Facebook is the intensifying contest between tech platforms as they diversify into new services and vie to control access to the customer. In Facebook’s case the problem is Apple’s new privacy rules, which allow users to opt out of ad-tracking, in turn rendering Facebook’s proposition less valuable for advertisers.

So are Meta’s problems a one-off or a sign of deeper ructions within the tech industry? Strong results from Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft in the past two weeks may lead some to conclude there is little to worry about. Apple’s pre-eminence in handsets in America and Alphabet’s command of search remain unquestionable. Yet there are grounds for doubt.

The competition between the big platforms is already intensifying. The share of the five big firms’ sales in markets that overlap has risen from 20% to 40% since 2015.

. . . .

Even in e-commerce, where Amazon remains pre-eminent, serious challengers such as the supermarket giants (Walmart and Target) or rival online platforms (Shopify) are making their presence felt. In any case, Amazon’s thin margins and vast investment levels suggest that consumers may be getting a better deal than investors. Although a strong showing from the cloud division divulged on February 3rd may buoy the e-empire’s market value by more than half as much as Meta lost, the cloud business is unlikely to stay as lucrative for ever. Alphabet, Microsoft and Oracle are already trying to compete away some of Amazon’s lofty cloud margins.

. . . .

The second change involves how investors and governments think about big tech, and indeed the stockmarket. The narrative of the 2010s—of a series of natural monopolies with an almost effortless dominance over the economy and investment portfolios—no longer neatly reflects reality. Technology shifts and an investment surge are altering the products that tech firms sell and may lead to a different alignment of winners and losers. And, as in previous booms, from emerging markets to mortgages, high returns have attracted a vast flood of capital, which in turn may lead to overall profitability being competed down. Given the enormous weight of the technology industry in today’s stockmarkets, this matters a great deal. And the mayhem at Meta shows it is no longer just an abstract idea.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG recently signed up for Walmart’s Free Delivery service. So far, he’s been able to get some ordinary household items delivered that are substantially less-expensive than the same/similar items offered on Amazon for PG’s Prime Account.

A+ Content on Kindle Direct Publishing

From Kindle Direct Publishing:

PG stumbled on something he hadn’t seen before on KDP, A+Content capabilities.

Basically, this appears to be a new tool to allow you to perk up your indie book descriptions with breakthrough formatting such as Bold, images, images with text overlays and stuff your fourth-grade relative has been doing in html since three months after she/he was born.

However, instead of using sophisticated html creation programs, you have to use a clunky-looking set of tools that the bosses at KDP have ordered their underlings to create.

In addition, the Zon has special content guidelines that appear to be different than the usual KDP book description content guidelines.

To wit:

Before you create A+ Content, review the A+ Content Guidelines. Amazon has specific terms and policies regarding types of content that may not be allowed, so review these carefully. Violating these guidelines may lead to a rejection by our system, which can require updates.

Just because KDP has a marketplace where you’re promoting your books now doesn’t mean that it will support A+ Content.

A+ Content must be created and published in each marketplace where you would like it displayed. From kdp.amazon.com, you can publish A+ Content in these marketplaces:

  • Amazon.com
  • Amazon.ca
  • Amazon.com.mx
  • Amazon.com.br
  • Amazon.co.uk
  • Amazon.de
  • Amazon.fr
  • Amazon.es
  • Amazon.in
  • Amazon.it
  • Amazon.nl
  • Amazon.com.au
  • From kdp.amazon.co.jp you can publish A+ Content in Amazon.co.jp

The languages that A+ Content can be published in vary by marketplace.

And, finally, the book description police have upped their game as well.

All content in compliance with our A+ Content Guidelines will appear on your detail page within eight business days. If your content requires changes, we’ll send you an email with further instructions.

For PG, this feels like going back to Web Design 1.0 again. You can check out Content Examples of A+ Content to see what the A+ people think is cool online merchandising.

Link to the rest at Kindle Direct Publishing

PG has speculated before that Amazon’s KDP tech and management people live in a world of their own that is apart from the mothership tech and design group. For Amazon’s other product lines, there are lots and lots of ways of presenting information, formatting marketing messages, putting up images, etc., etc.

You can even create your own branded store – here’s a link to one for Cuero, a leather-goods company PG hadn’t heard of before stumbling on it when he was looking for an example of a visually-interesting store on Zon.

For some reason books and authors seem to get the brown shoe set of marketing design tools. For example, if you look at JK Rowling’s author page, you’ll see that it looks pretty much like Rosie Graveltruck’s author page. Aside from her family, Rosie has not made any sales on Amazon. JK has been a money machine for both her publisher and the Zon. Cuero is way cooler than JK is.

PG just used a free app he found online while creating this post – PIXLR – to create an Author Page graphic that is far more eye-catching than Amazon can manage for JK.

Choose the Perfect Title for Your Novel

From Jane Friedman:

Your book title, along with the cover, is a key marketing tool: it must prompt potential readers to pick up the book in a bookstore or click on it online because they want to know more.

General nonfiction often makes its purpose explicit in the title or subtitle, but memoirs and novels are more ethereal; they explore themes, characters and situations, and their titles can go in a thousand directions. This richness of choice can sometimes stump a writer.

. . . .

Don’t get overly invested in your working title

Heather Young, author of literary murder mysteries, loved her initial titles, but her publisher asked her to change them—a very common experience.

“I pitched my first novel with the title White Earth, but the marketing department said it sounded like an alien invasion novel,” explained Young. “My agent recommended that I go through the book and find a phrase that leaped out at me. I found ‘once we were light’ and I pitched it, but they said it sounded like a weight loss book. Finally, the publisher suggested The Lost Girl. My contribution was, ‘Let’s make it plural,’ so the title The Lost Girls came by committee, between me, my publisher and the marketers.”

. . . .

Respect your contract with the reader

You may have a great title, but if it doesn’t fit the tone of your book, it’s not going to work. Jeannine Ouellette, author of The Part That Burns, faced this dilemma. Her book is a memoir in fragments. When it came time to choose the title, she hesitated between the title of two of the fragments, Four Dogs, Maybe Five and The Part That Burns.

“Both captured something essential to the book,” explained Ouellette. “Four Dogs, Maybe Five pointed to the way trauma destabilizes memory. It was also playful, but what concerned me is that it established a false contract with the reader. I wouldn’t want a dog lover to think this is a happy story about dogs because it’s not, so I wasn’t completely comfortable with this title, even though it had more light.”

The Part That Burns also contained some of the essential meaning of the book. “In this fragment the narrator is integrating the memories of her stepfather’s abuse, her sexuality, motherhood, and the power of giving birth; she understands that she can only live a full life by accepting the fullness of who she is and that includes the trauma of what happened to her. That’s what the title represented for me, and it didn’t have the disadvantage of being misleading. It’s a little intense, but I felt that was okay for this book.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Guess What’s Better Than a Book Blurb

From Publishers Weekly:

When I sold my 15th novel, The Enlightenment Project, and my publicist asked for a list of people I could ask for blurbs, I faltered. I explained that my husband had been quite ill, and that I had been out of the loop for a while—that anyone I asked would likely say, “Lynn who?”

My publicist persisted. “Tell me who you know.” I mentioned that Wendell Berry, the great poet and writer, had been my teacher and my mentor. “Perfect,” she said. “Ask him.”

So I did. I sent a typed letter, reminding Wendell rather shyly who I was. I addressed him as Dr. Berry, and apologized for the audacity of my request. Three days later I received a response—handwritten on a sheet of yellow legal pad, in pencil. Wendell has been known to write on a feed sack, but I believe such surfaces are reserved for poetry.

I sat at my desk, dog at my feet, and read the letter, my hand shaking, just a little, as a slow smile of joy spread across my face. Wendell began by telling me that what I called audacity, he remembered as “your good sense and a vivid spiritedness, that I saw in you when you were a student and remember very well. But I quit writing blurbs a long time ago, just because I didn’t have the time to make honest work of it. I am not sorry I quit, but I’m sorry to say no to you.”

He said that he hoped I was all right, and to please stop calling him Dr. Berry, as he was my old friend, Wendell. He sent me a signed copy of his book of essays, Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer, and I read it right there at my desk, happy just to hear his voice in his work, remembering when I had stormed the University of Kentucky, a 16-year-old freshman, seeking out every writing class offered.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Winning Attention with That Book Proposal

From Publishers Weekly:

As a former acquisitions editor at a publishing company, I well remember the ritual wherein executives gathered in a conference room armed with their tabbed notebooks. Once a month, department leaders—including those in editorial, marketing, and sales—and key sales representatives arrived for the pub board meeting. As a new editor, I had my spot on the schedule to present several books from my authors. Authors, retailers, librarians, and others in the publishing business never see or attend these sessions. I could feel the tension and intensity in the room. Each person knew the high stakes built into these meetings. Every book involves cost and risk to the publisher, and the pub board is where individuals are held accountable for their choices.

To get on the pub board agenda, a book passes through a number of checkpoints. An agent or the author pitched the book to the editor (me), and if I believed the proposal had merit for our house, I presented the book to our editorial team. They had to agree with my assessment before it was added to the agenda. Finally, editors prepared specific P&L documents for the pub board, to highlight our reasons for the book to be acquired before we made our in-person presentation to the department heads.

For decades, before attending pub board, I had been writing books for various traditional publishers. Until I joined a publishing house, I had never witnessed how they made the acquisition decisions. My experience was eye-opening and at times brutal. Occasionally, when I began to present a book and author, the COO would pipe up: “Terry, we could sell two of these books. One to me and one to someone else.” His statement was a deal killer for that book. We were looking for bestsellers. My presentation for that book was finished.

As I presented books at pub board meetings, there were many instances when writers missed an opportunity to get the attention of the board because of poorly written book proposals. While there isn’t an industry standard proposal, each should include an overview, author background, potential buyers, author marketing plans, competing books, and possible endorsers. Some agents have proposal templates for authors to submit and refine before going to publishers.

Often author pitches I saw were missing key elements in the competition section or were filled with untrue statements like, “My book is unique and has no competition.” With thousands of new books entering the market every day, the competition within publishing is fierce. There are no unique books—every book competes. Writers need to complete this section and detail their competitive titles. Imagine their books in bookstores. Which titles are beside them? These competitive titles need to be included.

Every author should treat a proposal as the book’s business plan. Authors should take their time in developing a proposal to ensure they make all of the points they want to make. A solid proposal typically runs 30–50 pages and can be the difference between getting a contract or losing a deal.

In 2004, I was a frustrated editor who wanted to get better submissions from authors. After reading many submissions, I wrote Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success, and my book has since helped countless writers find a literary agent and a book deal. The publishing world has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. For example, one of my “secrets” was to always include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). At that time, publishers received and processed piles of paper submissions. If the author didn’t include the return postage, they did not get their submissions returned.

Today, submissions are received electronically, but even these require care to avoid sending viruses and malware. In my attempt to get rid of typographical errors in submissions, another secret was never to trust a spellchecker. Instead, one should read one’s work aloud before submitting, since the ear is less forgiving than the eye.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG looked for the book pitched in the OP, Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success, on Amazon to see how it has done during its first six weeks of sales.

He couldn’t find any Amazon listing for the book on Amazon.

PG then searched Amazon for the publisher of the book, Morgan James Publishing and still couldn’t find any Amazon listing for the book.

That lead to PG discovering that Morgan James had only 8 books listed on Amazon that showed a publication date in 2021.

The 2021 Morgan James book with the most Amazon ratings was Your Pocket Therapist: Quick Hacks for Dealing with Toxic People While Empowering Yourself, published in January, 2021, with 105 ratings and a five-star average. The book ranked 85,923 in Kindle Store and 169 in Dysfunctional Families (Books).

Digging a little deeper into the ratings, PG discovered that the Pocket Therapist book had:

  • 96 global five-star ratings
  • 3 four-star ratings
  • 4 three-star ratings
  • 1 two-star ratings
  • 1 one-star rating

These ratings averaged 4.8, which PG thought was a little high for a non-fiction book that had not sold very well. The only critical review asked, “Why is the print so small?”

PG checked the latest Amazon Charts data for the Top 20 Most Read and Most Sold Nonfiction Books for the week of November 14. He discovered that 11 of the top 20 had average star ratings below 4.8. Only Barack Obama’s autobiography, A Promised Land, had an average star rating above 4.8.

BookTok has passion—and enormous marketing power

From The Economist:

A young woman holds up a book and smiles. “This is day one of me reading ‘The Song of Achilles’,” she says. The video jumps forward. “And this”, she moans, her face stained with tears, “is me finishing it.” Another clip, entitled “Books that will make you SOB”, offers written notes on how assorted stories got readers to cry, such as “I can’t think about it without bawling” and “ended up crying sm [so much] i had to change my shirt”. This is BookTok, as the literary wing of the app TikTok is known. Imagine the emotional pitch of a Victorian melodrama, add music, and you have the general idea.

BookTok is passionate. It is also profitable—at least for publishers. Bloomsbury, a publishing house based in Britain, recently reported record sales and a 220% rise in profits, which Nigel Newton, its boss, put down partly to the “absolute phenomenon” of BookTok. On Amazon, BookTok is so influential that it has leapt into the titles of books themselves. The novel “It Ends With Us”, for instance, is now listed as “It Ends With Us: TikTok made me buy it!” Evidently TikTok did a good job: the romance is riding high in the top 100 in both Britain and America.

The medium is not quite as gushy as it might seem. Much of the overdone emotion is ironic, and some of the videos are very funny—particularly those with the hashtag #writtenbymen, which poke fun at the male gaze. Nonetheless, many would make mainstream book reviewers tut. But why should the young women who are BookTok’s stars care what fogeyish literary types think of them? Until fairly recently, their perspective was marginalised in both fiction and criticism. White men dominated both—even though most novel-readers are female.

. . . .

BookTok has helped upend that hierarchy. Selene Velez (pictured), a 19-year-old American student, is behind @moongirlreads_ (an account with 185,000 followers). She focuses on authors who aren’t typically “taken as seriously” as others. “I’m a woman of colour,” she says. “I try to promote authors of colour.”

At the same time, BookTok pushes back against publishing amnesia. Books are imagined to confer immortality on authors—to be a “monument more lasting than bronze”, as the Roman poet Horace wrote—but the lifespan of most is startlingly short. Dig out a list of bestsellers from 20 years ago: not only are today’s readers unlikely to buy them, most won’t have heard of them. Many of the books will have joined the legions of what W.H. Auden called the “undeservedly forgotten”.

Link to the rest at The Economist

PG found a list of The New York Times Adult Fiction Bestsellers for November 11, 2001. Here it is:

1 THE KISS, by Danielle Steel.

2 ISLE OF DOGS, by Patricia Cornwell.

3 MIDNIGHT BAYOU, by Nora Roberts.

4 THE CORRECTIONS, by Jonathan Franzen.

5 BLOOD AND GOLD, by Anne Rice.

6 A BEND IN THE ROAD, by Nicholas Sparks.

7 BLACK HOUSE, by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

8 THE BEST-LOVED POEMS OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS, selected by
Caroline Kennedy.

9 THE MITFORD SNOWMEN, by Jan Karon.

10 JOURNEY THROUGH HEARTSONGS, written and illustrated by Mattie J.T.
Stepanek.

How to Create a Book Cover on Kindle Direct Publishing

From Medium:

Below, I share how I created and formatted my book cover, with extra attention to detail on the nitty-gritty of formatting the book cover for a paperback versus an ebook.

1: Find an Artist

Why you should commission artwork for your book cover

Isn’t that expensive? Yes, it’s an investment: an investment to make sure your other investment — hours, months, and years spent brainstorming, researching, workshopping, editing, and writing your book — doesn’t go to waste.

One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional publishing is that you don’t have control over anything except what goes within the covers of the book (and sometimes barely that).

Naturally, then, one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is complete control. Why not tailor a cover to your story?

Finding an artist

In my case, I scoured #PortfolioDay on Twitter, not just to scope out potential artists but, more importantly, to scope out different styles and get a sense of what I wanted. What would best convey the feel and theme of the book?

My story is a speculative Asian ghost story with culture and history at its core. I didn’t want straight-up anime but I knew I wanted an art style close to it. I saved images of wispy, hazy brushstrokes because I knew I wanted something ethereal to represent the magical elements of my story. I saved cartoon styles that were distinctly Korean — again, not quite anime, but close to it.

I then took screenshots of traditional Korean fan dance and drum dance, important elements of the story, to figure out how I wanted my main characters to be posing.

Towards the end of my research process, I cold-emailed two artists. One of them got back to me quicker.

Link to the rest at Medium

IP Is The New Frontlist (Part Two)

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

For six months now, I’ve been contemplating the sentence, “IP is the new frontlist.” I wrote about the implications of that twice in the past two months, first as part of the fear-based decisionmaking blogs, and then in the previous post called “Untapped.”

First a few terms for those of you who don’t know. IP is intellectual property—which is what you create when you write a book. (If you don’t understand this, pick up the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing.)

. . . .

Frontlist is a traditional publishing term for the new books being promoted to the bookstores. (Trad pub was and is all about bookstores.) Frontlist is the place that traditional publishing puts all of its advertising dollars, in fact, all of its efforts and expenditures.

The backlist is everything they published before. Some of the backlist is still in print. Most is not. Rarely does the backlist get revived.

This is the way the entire entertainment industry used to run. It took a long time for the movie/TV industry to figure out that people wanted to see old movies, for example. Turner Classic Movies was a revelation when it started in the 1980s. It could generate ad revenue, because people liked watching the channel. It took a while for the movie companies to put old movies on video, and even longer for them to see value in old TV shows on video.

Then Netflix came along with its gigantic appetite for content, and back in the days when they mailed you the DVDs on a subscription model, they discovered that people liked to binge old TV shows.

It took a couple of decades for the movie/TV industry to put all of that together. They weren’t sure how to handle it at first, which is why we saw so many old shows getting revived and revamped.

In the entertainment industry, we were all raised to think new is better, so of course, we had to make new TV shows out of old ones, and new movies out of old ones. Slowly, the realization came that new isn’t always better. You don’t improve on greatness.

So when the pandemic hit as the industry was trying to deal with streaming, they were primed to look at ways to change the industry. Prime time—the TV word for frontlist—wasn’t that prime anymore. People watched it at their own pace and in their own time.

That’s happening with books, but traditional publishers still don’t see it. Read the previous two blogs that I linked to above to see what I mean.

The problem is that most indie writers follow the traditional publishing model on everything. Indies put all their hopes and dreams and money into the newest book of theirs. They ignore their backlist. They think the only thing that has value is the book they’re releasing right now.

It’s not a surprise that indies think this way. After all, we were all raised in the same entertainment environment. For the past 150 years, books have been produce—something that spoils as it ages and needs to be tossed out. All entertainment has been based on the attitude that the latest is the greatest.

That attitude has seeped into our subconscious whether we like it or not.

But if you look at your own behavior, you’ll find that you’re not consuming the latest things all the time. You might stream a new show, but you’ll also stream a new-to-you show, based on recommendations from friends.

If you have a big To-Be-Read pile, like I do, you’ll read the latest novel followed by a novel that’s been on your shelf since 2015. None of us consume only newly published/newly released things. Let’s exclude returning to old favorites (which is a blog topic all its own). Most of us consume new-to-us things all the time.

So…step back from that for a moment and think about it.

If new-to-you is the model, then most indie writers are going about promotion all wrong.

Instead of always focusing on the real new product, writers need to focus on the project that makes the most sense to promote.

What do I mean by that? Well, it depends. So you’re going to release a new book in your series. You can market that book to the people who’ve already bought the series and to your newsletter of regular readers.

Or you can revamp and spruce up the series for the new release…and do a new-to-you promotion that will bring the first book in the series to the attention of people who have never read the series.

. . . .

But there are other ways to do a new-to-you promotion. You can pay attention to what’s happening in the culture and promote around that.

Imagine, for example, that suddenly books about Hawaii are in demand—and you just happened to publish a standalone Hawaii book five years ago. Time to put some promotion behind that, to catch the Hawaii wave, so to speak.

But what if you have nothing that’s au courant? What if you have a lot of books and some faithful readers and that’s it?

Well, then, time to set up a schedule to revisit your old titles. Rather than constantly improving the new, think about doing new covers and new promotion on your older works.

Set up a schedule—this series gets new covers and a refreshed interior in 2022, that one gets its revival in 2023, and so on.

Make sure all of your books are available to readers on all platforms. Take advantage of group marketing efforts like bundles—or create bundles of your own—so that readers can get introduced to all that you do.

What do I mean about bundles of your own? Say you wrote five standalone books about pets. Do a pet bundle—buy four and get one free—and sell it on your website for a short time only. Or put all of the books together in a pet bundle and make it available as a gigantic ebook, for a discounted price. (Cheaper than you could buy the books as a standalone.)

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

7 Simple Social Media Tips for Successful Authors

From Digital Pubbing:

Gone are the days when authors relied on publishers for handling the entire process. With an increase in self-publishing, it’s crucial to implement the right social media tactics for effective promotion. In this choice, every aspect of the book including writing, editing, packaging, marketing, etc. is handled by the writer himself.

No author should underestimate the immense power of engaging with targeted readers through different social platforms. Social media ensures that there is no boundary to marketing and you can let people know about your book all over the world. Engaging with the right people helps you create a loyal fan base in the long run.

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Your readers are likely to have questions if you are just about to get your new book out in the market. Even with your old books, they might have some interesting takes. Organizing these sessions will help you improve your relationship with your target audience. You can also collaborate with fellow authors to organize these sessions together. This is an exciting way to connect with people who are looking forward to knowing more about your journey. Use platforms like Facebook or Instagram Live, Google Hangouts, etc. for organizing these sessions.

Remember that these sessions act as a medium to engage with your audience. The discussion doesn’t necessarily have to be about writing or reading. You can encourage users to ask varied questions outside this niche as well. 

. . . .

Writing a book is a process that demands consistent effort. Sharing this entire journey with your readers will help you build a strong connection. People are often caught up in the myth that writing is easy for authors who are already successful. You can show them how you deal with your phases of writer’s block before you come up with something exciting. 

. . . .

Chris Fox, best-selling author of books like Write to Market, 5000 Words Per Hour, and more, took up a 21-day writing challenge. He uploaded his entire journey of 21 days on YouTube. In the end, he published his book on Kindle and the people who viewed his journey were curious to know what came out of it.

. . . .

People love being asked about their opinion on a specific area. While posting consistently on social media, make sure you are motivating them to share their opinions. When are short of content ideas, post a snippet of your book along with an open-ended question in the caption. To encourage users to participate in the conversation, tell them about your view after asking the question.

Link to the rest at Digital Pubbing

PG notes that, if an author doesn’t feel comfortable doing this sort of thing or doesn’t like the idea of climbing the learning curve on various social media platforms, he/she can hire someone to help do the job.

A Google search for “Social Media Agency” disclosed a lot of organizations anxious to do the job.

Another option might be to advertise in the student newspaper of a local college or university.