The Rise of AI: Books Forward February 2024 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 2024 newsletter here!

Should you create swag for your upcoming book release?

People love free stuff. On that, we can all agree. But do you need to have bookish swag? Of course not!

But offering unique and creative swag items can make an author stand out in a crowded market. Items that tie into the book’s themes, characters, or setting can also intrigue potential readers and make the author’s work more memorable.

Bookish swag can serve as a tangible representation of an author’s brand, increasing visibility and recognition among readers. Items with an author’s logo can also help reinforce the author’s presence in readers’ minds.

Ultimately, book swag serves as a marketing tool to promote both a book and its author. When readers use or display swag items, they become essentially walking advertisements, spreading awareness of an author and their work to a wider audience.

How can authors use swag?

In addition to ARC mailings, bookish swag can be utilized in a number of ways. Keeping swag on hand can be great for authors who have mailing lists and want to offer some freebies to readers who sign up for their newsletter. 

Many authors also like to conduct pre-order campaigns, and having swag to send to thank people who pre-order can be essential. Including book swag as part of a book purchase, whether through pre-orders or special promotions, can incentivize readers to buy the book. People often appreciate receiving additional value for their purchase, making them more likely to support the author’s work.

Keeping swag in bulk can also be great to bring with you when visiting with groups, libraries and bookstores. Many writers’ conferences also typically have tables where authors can donate their swag; this option is great to learn about other writers in your genre and connect with comparable authors.

Steps for creating swag

Creating bookish swag can be a fun and rewarding process for authors. Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Define your brand: Before creating any swag items, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your author brand. Consider your genre, writing style, themes, and target audience. Your swag should reflect these aspects of your brand to ensure consistency and authenticity.
  2. Brainstorm ideas: Think creatively about what types of swag would resonate with your readers and tie into your book or brand. Consider practical items like bookmarks, tote bags, or mugs, as well as more unique or thematic items that relate directly to your book’s characters, setting, or themes. Keep reading to see more ideas!
  3. Budget accordingly: Determine your budget for creating and purchasing bookish swag items. Factor in the cost of design, production, packaging, and shipping, as well as any additional expenses such as marketing or distribution.
  4. Design your swag: Once you have some ideas, work on designing the swag items. If you have graphic design skills, you can create the designs yourself using software like Adobe Photoshop or Canva. Alternatively, you can hire a professional designer to bring your ideas to life. Books Forward is happy to work with you to design swag for your upcoming book release!
  5. Source suppliers: Research suppliers or manufacturers who can produce your swag items. Look for companies that offer quality products at affordable prices and have experience working with authors or small businesses. Consider factors like minimum order quantities, production time, and shipping costs.
  6. Order and distribute that swag: Order samples if possible, then plan how you will promote and distribute items to your readers. Consider offering them as incentives for pre-orders, giveaways at book signings or events, or as bonuses for joining your mailing list or reader group. You can also sell some things directly through your website or online store.

Ideas for printed bookish swag

  • Bookplates: You can sign and also leave a personalized note for readers
  • Bookmarks: If we’re being honest, you can never really have too many bookmarks.
  • Stickers: If you have a book that lends itself to fun art — graphic novels, fantasy, children’s books — consider stickers as a fun and easy way to 
  • Pins/buttons: They’re slightly more expensive, but pins and buttons can be a good alternative if you want to take a step up from stickers.
  • Mailer boxes: If you have a few things to include with a book, you can also design a special mailer box to ship everything. These will definitely set your box aside from a normal brown, cardboard box!
  • Postcards: These are great because in addition to being used as swag, you can also mail these out to bookstores and libraries to alert them of your new book.
  • Pens: If you have an author/series logo, pens are a perfect, small item to display that.
  • Tote bags/hats: If you have a larger budget, you can look at having fabric-based swag like a fun hat or a bookish tote (just like bookmarks, can you ever really have too many tote bags?).

Get creative with your bookish swag

Below are some examples of swag Books Forward authors have utilized!

If you’re on the fence about bookish swag, really sit back and consider how it can best serve your author brand and your goals for marketing your book. Overall, bookish swag can be a valuable tool for authors to enhance their brand, engage with readers, and promote their work effectively in a competitive market. It can be a great option to utilize because it serves as souvenirs and memorabilia for readers, reminding them of their reading experience and creating a lasting connection to a book and its author.

Books Forward Authors in the Media: February 2024

What can we say, Books Forward authors are always going, going, going! We’re excited to feature some of our authors and their recent media wins.

  • Anne Abel discusses writing her memoir in this guest article for Publishers Weekly.
  • Joseph Macolino wrote an article for Live Write Thrive about how flawed heroes are essential for literature.
  • Ms. Magazine interviewed Maya Golden about her memoir The Return Trip.
  • Wen Peetes delves into tapping into and trusting your intuition in this piece for Spiritual Media Blog.
  • Maggie Giles spoke with the crew at the Bookshop at the End of the Internet about her book Twisted.
  • Let the Good Talk Roll had Books Forward author Mignon Francois on to discuss The Cupcake Collection.
  • Suzette Mullen was featured in Tagg Magazine in a piece about coming out in her 60s.
  • Roberta S. Kuriloff hopped on the Grief Dreams podcast for an interview about her book Framing a Life.
  • Deborah Kalb interviewed author Edward Green for a Q&A.
  • Arden Joy was highlighted by her alma mater Northwestern in a feature for Medill Magazine.
  • Kirkus Reviews calls Christine Bacilieri’s new book “a suspenseful adventure that will engage readers to the final page.”
  • Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long were interviewed by Pittsburgh City Paper.
  • Courtney Deane penned a piece for GirlTalkHQ about finding happiness when happily ever after fails.
  • Save a Pooch recently had W.B. Murph on the podcast.
  • Tim Piper and his book The Powell Expeditions were spotlighted by Snowflakes in a Blizzard.
  • T.C. Morrison talks five things you need to know to become a great author for Authority Magazine.
  • Mystery Writers of America featured an article from Michael Cooper on writing about war.
  • An excerpt from Dr. Chuck Wallington’s book A Seat at the C-Suite Table was featured by the HBCU Career Center Blog.
  • The Book Boys podcast highlighted Gary Stuart’s recent releases, Hide & Be and My Brother, Myself.
  • Meghan Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli were featured in Publishers Weekly’s 2024 book announcements.
  • Marschall Runge joined the Buddy Book Club podcast for an interview about his book Coded to Kill.
  • Citywide Blackout interviewed Jerry Madden on the family history and steel mill that inspired his new book.
  • Glenn Hileman spoke with the Denver Post about capturing his parents’ legacy in writing.
  • The Reading With Your Kids podcast was joined by Fahad Siddiqui, of Our Story Media.
  • Kendra Petty and Talk Beliefs discussed escaping the author’s home-grown cult.
  • Joan Cohen’s The Deepfake is called “a realistic drama novel with suspense and intrigue” in this five-star review from Reader’s Favorite.
  • Gail Marlene Schwartz penned an article for Writing and Wellness about scribbling her way home.
  • Admissions Blog featured this article from Shaan Patel about resources for the new digital SAT.

Want to stay up to date on what Books Forward authors are doing? Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and Threads!

What is SEO? And why should I care about it?

What? Another digital thing we have to keep in mind?! We know, and apologies in advance.

But in our constantly-evolving digital world, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a critical component for online success. Understanding the fundamentals of SEO — yes, even for authors — is essential for improving your online visibility and driving organic traffic to your website.

Okay, so what’s a search engine?

We promise you’ve used these before. They’re your sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo — you get the gist — and with them, you can search for, well, whatever you want really. Search engines exist so you can find answers to questions you have, directions for places you’re going, products you’re interested in buying, etc. 

So, how does search engine optimization work?

Search engines run various algorithms (some weird computer formula) to help you find the data you’re looking for; in essence, they’re combing the entire World Wide Web to narrow down the results to get you exactly what you need. By utilizing SEO, your aim is to get your website on the first page of results for search terms that mean the most to your target audience. Which means it’s important to understand your target audience: If you’re a YA romance author but a majority of your web traffic is from politically-active men in their 60s, you might not be hitting the right spot.

But why is SEO important?

With good SEO practice, your website will rank higher (or highest) on a search engine’s results page. The higher your website is situated on a page, the more likely someone is to click on your site. Think about it: If you’ve ever searched something, you’re unlikely to go past the first page of results — sometimes you might not even get to the bottom of that first page. Ultimately, the higher you rank, the more people are going to visit your website.

And it’s a circle: Good rankings mean good traffic, which means new customers (or in authors’ cases, new readers), exposing you to a larger and larger audience. The ultimate goal is to increase organic (nonpaid) traffic to a website by optimizing the site’s content, structure, and other elements, aligning them with the algorithms used by search engines. Speaking of organic traffic…

Paid vs. organic SEO

Have you ever searched for something and noticed the top result says “Sponsored” above it? That’s an example of a paid ad. The more general a search, the more paid results you’re likely to see. Searching for “blue dress” will net you a LOT of sponsored results. But searching for “blue dress Michelle Obama wore in 2011” will get your more specific results for images and articles. (A note: the results you see are going to be different from what someone else might see because search engine algorithms are taking into account your personal habits and practices!)

Now paid results are great, but a majority of clicks are going to come from organic SEO. Why? Have you ever almost clicked on an ad, realized it’s an ad, and then kept scrolling? That’s why. Many customers are averse to paid results because they feel they aren’t truly getting an accurate result for their search. 

SEO is a cost-effective strategy for driving traffic. While it can require an initial investment, the long-term benefits can outweigh the costs, especially for sustainable organic growth. Google alone processes billions of searches daily, and organic results are a large portion of that. Plus, with organic results, every click that sends traffic to your website is free. And who doesn’t like free?

How can I make my website more SEO-friendly?

There are a few easy steps you can take on your end, the first being to actually have a website.

General website tips

  • Make sure your site is user friendly: Factors like page load speed, mobile responsiveness, and easy navigation contribute to a better user experience, which can positively affect search rankings.
  • Create good content: Search engines prioritize high-quality, relevant content. Creating valuable, informative, and engaging content not only attracts visitors to your site, but that also signals to search engines that your site is a credible source of information.

Keep an eye on links

  • Utilize internal linking: When something on one page of your site links to another page.
  • Backlinking: Whether it’s through guest posts, interviews, or various other content, whenever something about you appears on someone else’s web page, see if you can have a link added that takes people back to your website.
  • Fix broken links: Keep an eye out for broken links; sometimes an interview you did might not be available online anymore, or a website might have changed the URL, breaking the link you have. 

Analyze your site’s copy/text

  • If you have a blog, take a look at the titles you’re using: Are your titles engaging and appealing? Can you make a title into a list? Or a question? Would you want to click on that title if you saw it?
  • Within your general website copy, also make sure you’re utilizing keywords that would appeal to your target audience. If it’s a keyword that would make sense for Amazon, it will likely make sense to have someone on your website as well.

Audit your site

Hire someone who can take an objective, third-person look at your website and see what improvements can be made. 

When will I see results?

Like most things, results usually don’t happen overnight. Keep an eye on your website traffic for a period of months — not days — to see how traffic has been affected by the steps you’ve taken to make your site more SEO friendly. 

By understanding and implementing the key components of SEO, you can enhance your online visibility, attract your targeted audience, and build a sustainable online presence. And as search engine algorithms continue to evolve, staying informed about SEO best practices and adapting to changes will remain crucial for achieving and maintaining those high rankings on search engine results pages.

You’re truly never done optimizing your website; make sure you are regularly updating and checking on what improvements you can make. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed doing it on your own, look into hiring a service that can help!


Happy Holidays: Books Forward December 2023 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 December 2023 newsletter here!

Important News: Books Forward December BFFs 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the December 2023 newsletter here!

Books Forward Authors in the Media: December 2023

What can we say, Books Forward authors are always going, going, going! We’re excited to feature some of our authors and their recent media wins.

  • My SA featured author Rudy Ruiz in an article on the Texas Book Festival.
  • Andrew Dolberg and Rob Long wrote an article featured by the Climate Fiction Writer’s League.
  • Asian Avenue Magazine featured author Mike Yam and his children’s book in its November edition.
  • Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki wrote a piece for Arab America on connecting to her roots through writing.
  • Fantasy Hive featured an article from Alison Levy on realism in the fantasy genre.
  • G.B. Smith talks 5 things anyone can do to take great photos in this piece for Authority Magazine.
  • The GSMC Book Review Podcast had author Francesca Miracola on recently to talk about her book I Got it From Here.
  • Meghan Kallman and Josephine Ferorelli wrote a piece for GirlTalkHQ on putting family planning at the center of the climate conversation.
  • WCAX featured local author Gail Schwartz and how she hopes to inspire readers with her new book.
  • Author Audrey Gale joined Big Blend Radio to discuss her recent release, The Human Trial.
  • Table Read Magazine spoke with author T.C. Morrison about his satirical tort lawyers series.
  • Edward Green talks about success and feeling unworthy in this piece for Best Self Media.
  • Brevity featured a guest post from Suzette Mullen on her micromemoir fail.
  • Our Story publishing was featured in a recent episode of Absolutely Intercultural.
  • Readers’ Favorite calls Marschall Runge’s Coded to Kill a “masterfully crafted thriller.”
  • Maya Golden wrote an article for Women Writers, Women’s Books on the physical decomposition of writing a memoir.
  • Conversations LIVE! had author Maggie Giles on recently to talk about her new book Twisted.
  • Michael Cooper talks about his favorite year in Jerusalem in this guest article for A Writer of History.

Want to stay up to date on what Books Forward authors are doing? Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and Threads!

What is AI and how will it affect authors?

This blog post was not written by artificial intelligence, though we highly considered it.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a pretty broad term that describes using computers and machines to mimic the human mind. Whether it’s Siri or Alexa, face recognition software or even predictive text, the use of AI is becoming more and more prevalent on a daily basis. And new platforms and software are constantly being developed and improved upon.

How authors can use AI

First and foremost, you need to familiarize yourself with what’s available. Most authors will utilize what’s known as generative AI, which can produce various types of content, like images, audio, text, etc. Below are only a smattering of the AI options out there, though they’re definitely some of the most popular. Acquaint yourself with different platforms to find what works best for you.

There are genuine reasons to use AI, like getting a head start on a project; doing the routine, mundane tasks; augmenting the scalability of tasks, etc. Below are some ways to consider utilizing AI as an author:

  • Generate ideas for your blog
  • Organize an outline of your current work in progress
  • Workshop back cover copy
  • Draft query emails for agents and editors
  • Analyze author bios and draft your bio at different lengths
  • Brainstorm social media captions
  • Recommend questions for author events, talking points for interviews, etc.

In general, you should never take what AI has created and use it as is. These tools are great to research, inspire and jump-start ideas, but your voice and personality are what draw people to your content. A social media caption created by AI is going to sound like it was created by AI. Remember to always keep the human element in your content; use the ideas AI has given you and expound and better it.

It’s also important to think about what you are putting out into the world. As we see increases in spam, books that are completely written by AI, and more, the relationships we build from person to person are becoming more important than ever. It’s incredibly important to keep in mind the responsibility we hold for the content we provide people. 

AI and book production

Publishers are also testing AI capabilities not just in marketing but in the book production phase as well. When it comes to forming metadata, brainstorming keywords, and even indexing, AI cas assist publishers in some of the more routine tasks, allowing them to free up time and personnel for more creative endeavors. The time it takes to get a book to market will also likely shrink — with a shrinking of costs included — with companies’ increased use of AI.

Whether you realize it or not, AI is all around the publishing world in some of the programs you’re already using: Tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and even PDFs have accessibility tech built into them. And authors frequently employ platforms like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. Even using an EPUB accessibility checking tool, like Ace by DAISY, is common practice for helping publishers meet industry standards and file requirements for ebooks. 

Legal landscape of AI

Important questions are even now being worked out in the legal system about protectability, authorship and ownership of AI-generated material. Currently, precedent says that to own something, there must be human authorship — works created by animals, celestial beings, machines, etc. don’t count.

Furthermore, the U.S. Copyright Office has declared that things made with AI need to have a disclaimer on them, though the agency is ​​continuing to collect information to analyze current law and how it applies to generative AI. Cases involving graphic novels with AI-generated images and human-authored texts, as well as whether using existing materials to train AI is infringement are currently working their way through the courts.

The final word on AI

Be responsible and remember why you became an author in the first place: because you had something to say. AI content will always be just that — content. But art comes from humans, and no matter how much inspiration AI provides, it’s not something authors can depend on full-stop.

Bestsellers Galore: Books Forward November 2023 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 November 2023 newsletter here!

Bestsellers Galore: Books Forward November BFFs 2023 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the November 2023 newsletter here!