BFFs May 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features an interview with a small business supporting indie authors, quizzes, reading lists, highlights of our BFFs and much more!

Download the May 2021 newsletter here!

Books Forward April 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the April 2021 newsletter here!

What is a street team and how should I use it?

As an author, have you ever thought about just how great it would be if you had a network of friends you knew would be dedicated to helping you promote your book? Sound like a fantasy?

Enter the street team.

A street team is a group of readers that help you promote your book, usually the most loyal fans of your previous books, or books in similar genres.

The relationship built between author and team members is beneficial for both parties. Team members will have access to their favorite author (you!) as well as other exclusive content. And as an author, you’ll have a team dedicated to promoting your upcoming book by posting and talking about it to their network of followers and friends — building up buzz ahead of your book’s launch!

How to recruit team members

The first step after deciding to compose a street team is, of course, recruiting members. If this is your first time getting a team together, try and shoot for between 20-50 members initially. More is great! But keep in mind you’ll have to keep track of if everyone is doing their part and promoting on their end. Exclusivity also helps make everyone on the team feel more special as well. A fun way to cement that exclusivity: Consider coming up with a creative team name!

And remember, team members need to be active online. There will be opportunities to promote your book in person — like talking with a bookseller or book club — but word-of-mouth will be most effective online and on social media.

Where to find members

  • Reach out to friends and family who would be a good fit
  • Check in with any beta readers you may already have
  • Go through previous relationships with book bloggers and people who have previously reviewed your book
  • If you’re promoting the next book in a series or a book similar to a previous work, reach out to people who have positively reviewed your book on Goodreads, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc.
  • Announce in your mailing list, newsletter or on social media that you’re looking for team members

Have people fill out a Google Form so you can go through and pick who would be best for the team, or create a form/page on your website where they can enter info. Ask them things like what social media accounts they have, other books they’ve read in your book’s genre, any specific ideas for how they’d like to see your book promoted, etc. Consider keeping a tab on your website where people can request to join and you can consider building up your team for future books.

How to communicate with your team

So how do you keep track of communication with members once you’ve assembled your team? You’ll need to have an online space where all members can have access. Consider creating a private page on your website that only team members can access with a password. Or an easy option: Create a private Facebook page with just you and members — just make sure everyone in your team has a Facebook account!

Wherever you decide to keep team communication, you should make it a goal to post here regularly as well (we know, basically another social media platform!!). But interaction is important: It helps team members get to know you and vice versa. And it builds a great relationship with your team for future releases.

Notes on communication

  • Try and keep content focused around you and your book. After all, the goal of your street team is to promote your work!
  • Organize things like author interviews/takeovers with other authors to cross-promote and provide new content for your team members.
  • Make sure your team has access to any kind of promotional materials, both digital and physical. This could be bookmarks they can pass out to friends or flyers, stickers, buttons, etc. that they can drop off at local bookstores and libraries.
  • And again, exclusivity is important! When making announcements, make sure team members are one of the first — if not the first — group you reach out to and alert of something new. For instance, if you’re planning a cover reveal, your team should be able to see the cover before the general public.
  • You can also consider hosting a special launch event/party with just team members to celebrate all their hard work leading up to your book’s launch!

How to incentivize team members

It’s important to keep your team active and engaged during the book promotion process. The easiest way to do that is to create a challenge system where members must complete a task to receive a special reward, i.e.: After they post about the book on all their social media accounts, they’ll get a sneak peek of a future book excerpt. For bigger challenges/rewards, you can have drawings for prizes, i.e.: If someone gets a book club to read your book, they can be entered for a video chat session with you.

Potential rewards for your system

  • First access to any advance reader copies
  • Early access to extra written content like short stories, prequels,
  • Signed copies of books
  • If they aren’t already, consider allowing them to be beta readers for future novels
  • Sneak peeks at cover and title reveals, excerpts from future books etc.
  • Early and/or exclusive access to content on your author website or blog
  • Bonus book-related content like printable artworks, maps, bookmarks etc.
  • A video chat session with you (or potentially with an author friend as well if you’re working on cross-promoting!)
  • Promotion of your team members’ blogs and social media accounts on your own channels
  • A shoutout in the acknowledgements section of subsequent books

Potential challenges for members

  • Have them leave reviews of your book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, other bookseller sites, their own personal blogs, etc.
  • Posting Instagram photos (if you don’t already have a hashtag around your book/series, now would be a good time to think of one!)
  • If they have a blog, hosting you for an interview or guest post.
  • Sharing others’ reviews and social media posts about you and your books
  • Sharing your blog posts and reposting posts from your social media accounts
  • Posting shoutouts of you and your book on their own social media channels
  • Talking about and recommending your book(s) to their family members, friends, etc.
  • Requesting your book(s) at their local libraries and suggesting them to any book clubs

There’s no set limit on how often you dish out challenges and rewards, but weekly challenges are a good goal to shoot for. You want challenges to be often enough to keep members active and engaged, but you don’t want to give them too many challenges that they are overwhelmed. Being a team member should be fun — not a chore!

Organize your system in the beginning of your book promotion period so that as the weeks go on, all you have to do is keep track of if team members are completing the challenges. And don’t forget to let everyone know that the rewards are not the main purpose of the team: They’re a way of thanking team members. The goal is to get the word out about you and your book to new readers!


BFFs April 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features a special opportunity for BFFs, some fun reading quizzes, highlights of our BFFs and much more!

Read the April 2021 newsletter here!

Books Forward February 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the February 2021 newsletter here!

Books Forward staff’s fav reads of 2020

Needless to say, 2020 has been…a year. But one thing we could always depend on throughout the weird year was our favorite thing: books. Check out some of the reads that the Books Forward staff read this past year and absolutely loved — some of them might even make it onto your 2021 TBR!

Ellen, senior publicist:

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

I really leaned into hardcore fantasy this year, and Priory was an absolute standout: The way the author weaves together the story tendrils, the flawed and intriguing characters, the casual queerness in the world and THE DRAGONS all really resonated with me.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Sometimes I have a hard time with memoirs that touch on heavy subject matter, but Chanel Miller is an astounding writer and person, and I’ll read anything she writes.

Corrine, junior publicist:

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides 

This book had me on the edge of my seat from the second I picked it up to the moment I finished it 24 hours later.

Brittany, digital marketing coordinator:

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This book had a high-intensity, unpredictable ending — I felt like I was in the latest Netflix binge-worthy show and needed to finish it ASAP. The way Cole twisted gentrification into a thriller left me even more shook at how deep rooted systemic racism can be. This book is scary in more ways than one.

Jenn, publicist:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I feel like I’ve talked about this book so much this year but that’s how good it is — Gyasi’s writing is some of the most beautiful prose I’ve had the honor to read, and the way she weaves multiple stories between generations is a true work of art.

Wool by Hugh Howey

I’m not usually a fan of science-fiction, so I was pleasantly surprised with how into this book I got (and I’m talking stay up way too long, losing sleep into it). I was immediately sucked into the story and world Howey built and now have the rest of the series on my TBR.

Jackie, publicist:

Bunny by Mona Awad

This creepy horror story praised by Margaret Atwood as “genius” is also surprisingly funny as a satire of MFA programs, and definitely one of the weirdest, most unforgettable books I’ve read!

Angelle, lead publicist:

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones recounts his life in a series of vignettes, reflecting on his adolescence growing up in the South, his budding sexuality, race, relationships, family dynamics and grief. I picked this incredible memoir up as a group read with the Books Forward team, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know!

What’s your sign? Pair your Zodiac with these stellar books


Ah, astrology. Whether you’re a casual believer, a devoted birth chart developer, or you think it’s a load of Taurus dung, we all have a sign. And if our Zodiac truly aligns with our personality, that means there’s a book out there that’s just meant to be read by us. Check out this list we’ve compiled of books compatible with your astrological sun sign (aka, the sign that falls on the date you were born).

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

If you’re an Aquarius, you’re likely highly intellectual, using your knowledge to help others. If we’re spot on — and we usually are — you should pick up “How to Be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi. The book fuses ethics, history, law and so much more to create a primer for how to begin reshaping the way we think about race in the U.S. Utilize your humanity-driven style and forward-thinking attitude to learn about paving the way for a more equitable society.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

Oh, sweet Pisces. If only everyone were as selfless and adept at forming strong relationships like you. In fact, it kind of reminds of us Percy Jackson from “The Lightning Thief,” by Rick Riordan. It’s only fitting that a Pisces’ ruling planet is Neptune aka Poseidon aka Percy’s dad in this popular middle grade series. Whether it’s using your intuition to suss out traitors or honing in on your compassion to save your friends, we have a feeling you share a lot in common with this demigod.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

Running head first into dangerous situations, Aries are known for being aggressive and taking action, so “Legendborn” by Tracy Deonn matches perfectly. The protagonist, Bree, is an overachiever (we can literally hear all the Aries who applauded at being overachievers) who gets in over her head but manages to kick ass anyway, saving her friends (and possibly humanity) along the way. She’s a natural leader with protective instincts and a fiery disposition that serves her well.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

If you’re a Taurus, you likely don’t put a lot of stock into your Zodiac, but that doesn’t mean your sensual nature and passion goes unnoticed by the rest of us. Ruled by Venus, the planet of love, you’ll need to pick up a book that expresses that longing in the most powerful of ways, like in “Call Me by Your Name,” by André Aciman. Tauruses consider touch and taste the most important of all the senses, so the ever-patient bull will latch on to the SOMETHING attraction and intimacy that build in this beautiful novel.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

Two sides of the same coin, Geminis are hard to pin down. Ruled by Mercury and an open mind, you’re great with communication and writing, like Monique in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” But your inquisitive and fun-loving nature will also have you wanting to expand your horizons and see what else the world has to offer — and Evelyn is just the reclusive Hollywood star to open your mind to new ideas and experiences.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

So you want to show off your tough outer shell without letting people see your emotional core? Ah, typical Cancer. Well lucky for you, you can have that electric love while still maintaining your moody suspicion of said love, like in Sally Rooney’s “Normal People.” Your emotional and imaginative nature will pair well with the give and take between Marianne and Connell — and the challenging but deeply sympathetic disposition of Cancers matches the complex love story.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)

Bold and beautiful (and prone to the dramatics) Leos aren’t afraid to shy away from the spotlight or speak their minds, and that makes “Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callendar a great pairing. Just like Felix, Leos know who they are — even if sometimes that confidence wavers, and they aren’t afraid to flaunt their artistic talents. Funny, heartwarming, and with added romance (we know you lions are a sucker for a love story!) this YA novel is perfect for this ferocious fire sign.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

You can’t get anything past a Virgo (seriously, go ahead and try). So Virgos need a book that will match their analytical nature and their hardworking approach to life, much like Michelle McNamara, author of “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” A compelling account of a serial killer that terrorized California, the true crime genre isn’t always for the faint of heart — but a Virgo can definitely handle it.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

If you’re a Libra, you’re probably always trying to find the perfect balance in your life. So what about a suspenseful book that shakes things up, like “Little Secrets” by Jennifer Hillier. As the case for her missing son grows cold, Marin is looking to tip the scales (see what we did there?) in her favor to find him — and unravel a web of secrets and lies in the process. Libras aren’t strangers to seeking justice, so this thriller will fit perfectly in their collection.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

The most passionate of the water signs, you can’t go wrong with having a Scorpio by your side. Like Aries, Scorpios are great leaders, people you can depend on — like Rue in the upcoming YA fantasy “Wings of Ebony” by J. Elle. After having her life turned upside down and discovering her godly ancestry, Rue is faced with the daunting task of saving not only her magical world but her earthly one as well. Full of bravery and determination, she definitely reminds of our Scorpio friends out there.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

Like other fire signs, endless curiosity and energy notoriously denotes a Sagitarrius. “The Extraordinaries,” by T.J. Klune perfectly captures that energy and imagination where fan fiction meets real life superheroes. You’re a little extra sweet precious cinnamon roll — with a touch of saucy humor — just like the main character, Nick. And whereas other signs might be more closed off when it comes to expectations, your mind is open (and constantly churning) to a world of endless possibilities.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

Rounding out the Zodiac is the Capricorn, the independent and responsible influences some of us could use more of in our lives. Some may say Capricorns are know-it-alls (we didn’t say us!) so a book breaking down the process of learning — and unlearning — is a good fit for them, like “Flowers for Algernon,” by Daniel Keyes. This one is a hard-hitting book about the limits humanity will go to for intelligence. When a breakthrough experiment seems too good to be true, the limits of the human brain are examined at the expense of one man’s life. 

So, did the stars align to find you the perfect new book recommendation? If you want to find your book pairings for your moon and ascending signs — complete your natal chart to add even more compatible books to your TBR!

Top audiobooks to get you through your self-mandated isolation jogs

So you decided to take up jogging during quarantine so you could have some time outside the confines of your house? Great in theory. But now you’re outside in 100-degree heat, cursing the healthy part of you that insisted on getting Vitamin D instead of doing push-ups inside. 

Cue audiobooks. 

What better to distract you from the awkward way you hold your arms or that annoying bead of sweat dribbling between your eyebrows than an audiobook so amazing you forget you’re actually running (OK, probably not forget, but I can dream). 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite audiobooks that have gotten me through my own self-mandated isolation jogs during the pandemic:

“Such a Fun Age,” by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis

Fiction is difficult for me to listen to on audiobook. My mind wanders. I realize half a chapter in that I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the plot and I’ve missed something. But Reid’s book constantly held my attention from the first page (or if we’re talking audiobooks, the first second?). This is such a quick, compelling read that I was shocked when it was over. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve convinced myself to listen to more fiction on tape.

“Kitchen Confidential,” by Anthony Bourdain, narrated by the author

This is an audiobook I honestly find my self coming back to over and over again. I’ve always been a huge fan of Bourdain’s shows, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed getting a gritty inside look at the restaurant world through this book. Funny and honest and raw, this is definitely required reading for foodies everywhere.

“We’re Going to Need More Wine,” by Gabrielle Union, narrated by the author

Memoirs are great, and memoirs by celebs are just *chef’s kiss*. Union’s book has made me literally laugh out loud on the jogging trail, as well as completely stop me in my tracks. Her writing flows so easily and is so personable — it felt like I was listening to a friend tell me their life story. And did it inspire me to pour my own glass post-run? Perhaps…

“Calypso,” by David Sedaris, narrated by the author

This was my first Sedaris book, and something about listening to it at 1.5 speed while dodging ducks and small children on my run has me believing it’s the quintessential way to listen to him. Sedaris has a way of writing that is part standup, part extremely personal diary entries, and somehow it all works together. After finishing this one, I was clamoring to reserve his other audiobooks through my library.

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama, narrated by the author

Obama’s book is loooong but also so worth it. Honestly, I could have listened to it even if it were 40 hours long. I would take an entire collegiate course on Michelle Obama if I could. Her storytelling is stunning and vulnerable and also incredibly powerful at the same time. I recommend this book to so many people, and I distinctly tell them to listen to the audiobook if they get a chance.

“Furiously Happy,” by Jenny Lawson, narrated by the author

Lawson is SO funny. I’m serious, like side-splitting, snorting laughing funny. With the way 2020 has gone, this is one of those books that’s great to tap into when I need reassurance that yeah, life may suck a bit — but laughing at yourself and the ridiculous situations you end up in makes it suck a bit less. Lawson’s sincerity and bluntness about mental illness is so refreshing. If you think you can’t sit back and laugh at your own depression or anxiety, think again.

Books Forward Authors Recognized with Awards and Accolades

We’re excited to celebrate a number of Books Forward family authors and their titles that have recently been recognized across the industry with various awards, nominations, and accolades. 

The Independent Publisher Book Awards, or IPPYs, were recently announced, and there’s a host of Books Forward authors featured among the winners.

Acknowledging independent authors with awards for more than 20 years, the IPPYs were created to “bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.”

The Nautilus Book Awards announced its winners for 2019 — and there are quite a few Books Foward authors on the list!

  • Donald Rattner, “My Creative Space,” silver in Creativity & Innovation
  • Donna Cameron, “A Year of Living Kindly,” gold in Personal Growth (large publisher)
  • Richard C. Lyons, “The DNA of Democracy,” silver in All World Cultures Conscious Growth & Development
  • Hendrika de Vries, “When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew,” gold in Memoir & Personal Journey (large publisher)

The Nautilus Books Awards were created to recognize significant new cultural movements and the books that identify and publicize these movements. 

Multiple authors were named finalists in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers.

  • Andrew Lam, “Repentance,” winner in Historical (Fiction)
  • Rachel Kowert, “Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency,” finalist in Children’s Picture Book (Educational 6 Years & Up)
  • Hendrika de Vries, “When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew,” finalist in  Memoirs (Overcoming Adversity/Tragedy)
  • Elena Schwolsky, “Waking in Havana: A Memoir of AIDS and Healing in Cuba,” finalist in both Memoirs (Personal Struggle/Health Issues) and Travel/Travel Guides
  • Michael Bland, “The Price of Safety,” finalist in both Science Fiction and Thriller
  • Alice C. Early, “The Moon Always Rising,” finalist in Chick Lit, Paranormal, and First Novel
  • Elayne Klasson, “Love is a Rebellious Bird,” finalist in both General Fiction/Novel and Best Cover Design
  • Monique Allen, “Stop Landscaping, Start Lifescaping” finalist in Cooking/Home/Garden
  • Kathleen Shoop, “The Christmas Coat,” finalist Novella (17,500-40,000 words)

Three Books Forward authors were recently recognized by the eLit Book Awards. With more than 65 categories, the eLit Awards are dedicated to honoring the best e-books published each year in North America.

  • Susan K. Hamilton, “Shadow King,” bronze (tie) in Fantasy/Science-Fiction
  • Kelly Oliver, “Jackal: A Jessica James Mystery,” gold in Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
  • Donna O’Donnell Figurski, “Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale,” silver in Autobiography/Memoir

Other recent accolades include Donna Baier Stein’s “Scenes from the Heartland” being named a finalist for the inaugural 2019 Big Other Book Award for Fiction. Created by the online arts and culture magazine Big Other, the awards aim to “recognize excellence in literature, to promote and support the work of innovative writers and adventurous presses.”

Two Books Forward authors were recently named finalists for the 2020 Montaigne Medal as well as the Eric Hoffer Award Grand Prize Short List and honorable mentions for the aforementioned award. Recognized in those special lists are Elena Schwolsky for her memoir “Waking in Havana” and Janet Roger for her novel “Shamus Dust.” The Hoffer Awards honor the memory of American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting “salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers.” As part of the Eric Hoffer Awards, the Montaigne Medal is awarded to thought-provoking books that “either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.” 

The 2020 Edgar Awards recently announced its list of winners, and Carol Goodman and her book “The Night Visitors,” are the recipients of the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. The Edgar Allen Poe Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America, honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in the previous year.

Stephanie Raffelock tied for gold in the Aging Human Relations Indie Book category in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. Her book, “A Delightful Little Book on Aging,” was recognized by the awards, which honor indie authors who indie authors with books “with a human relations focus related to various interactions among people in different settings such as work, organizations, school, home, family or in personal lives.”  

Finally, the Junior Library Guild has selected Suzanne Park’s debut novel, “The Perfect Escape” as one of its fall titles! The JLG is one of the leading voices in the library industry, providing a range of titles to libraries throughout the year. The guild’s editors meet with publishers of children’s and YA books throughout to narrow down their selections for their spring and fall lists.

Congratulations to all these Books Forward authors! We are excited and proud to see your hard work and perseverance recognized by industry leaders!