What is an ARC and why is it important for publicity

What is an ARC?

An ARC, or advanced reader copy, is a version of a book–either in digital or print format–that is made available to select readers before the official publication date.

Is there a difference between an ARC and a galley?

It depends on who you ask! Some will tell you the terms are synonymous, whereas others will note slight differences between the two. For some, the term galley more accurately refers to an earlier proof, which isn’t as far along in the proofreading and copyediting process. They instead use the phrase bound galley to signify a version is more polished than a traditional galley. In this case, bound galley and ARC both refer to the same thing: a near-final version of the book that will be shared with a wider audience ahead of publication.

Who gets to see an ARC?

ARCs may pass through many hands, but they are primarily shared with reviewers, tastemakers, and media professionals with the hopes of building buzz for the author and their new release.

So, how are ARCs used in publicity?

ARCs are traditionally used to:

  • Get blurbs. You can share your ARC with authors and experts who have agreed to provide a blurb. These blurbs can then be printed on the cover or interior of your book.
  • Submit for industry reviews. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Foreword, Shelf Awareness, and other popular industry publications will review books prior to release day. Many of these groups require 3-4 months lead time, so the earlier you can send a copy their way, the better!
  • Secure reviews from readers, bloggers, and influencers. Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and book blogs each house unique avid reader communities. Always check to see if the contact you are reaching out to has review guidelines posted, and follow their requested procedures. And keep in mind that most of these reviewers work for free. If they do agree to review your book, be sure to show your gratitude for their time and energy!
  • Coordinate media placement and interviews. Local newspapers, radio stations and podcasters are also great targets for ARC-sharing. If you share a book with them ahead of your release, they may be able to fit you in for an interview or feature surrounding pub day.
  • Enter awards contests. Some literary awards programs accept ARCs, while others only accept final copies. The benefit to using ARCs when you can is that you’ll receive your results earlier, and can promote award wins as soon as possible.
  • Notify booksellers and librarians. If you’re hoping to book an event or to place your title on local shelves, you’ll want to share an ARC with nearby bookstores and libraries. After previewing the advanced copy, these tastemakers may be more likely to pre-order your book and/or set up an event with you.

Will flaws in my ARC negatively affect the response I get from awards committees, reviewers, influencers and booksellers?

Reviewers, influencers and industry professionals are used to working with advanced copies, and they are attuned to the fact that typos and formatting errors will likely be reworked before publication date. These small flaws rarely affect how a reviewer will receive your book.

That said, it’s always best to check guidelines prior to submitting a review request or award entry. If the individual or organization only accepts final copies, you would want to wait until after publication date to complete your request.

Is it safe to share digital ARCs?

Sharing digital ARCs, or eARCs, is typically safe if you are sending an attachment to a trusted contact. If you are worried about sending attachments, you can set up a privacy-protected listing for your ebook on NetGalley. Or, your publisher or publicist may set this up on your behalf.

NetGalley is home to over 400,000 users–mainly reviewers, booksellers, librarians and educators–who are looking to stay up-to-date on new book releases. Listing your book on the site helps to expand exposure, increase reader reviews, and can potentially lead to pre-orders.

Get sharing!

ARCs are a very valuable tool in book promotion. Creating a plan for how to use your ARCs will help boost exposure for your new release and will set you on a path to success!

amazon book

How to make your Amazon page pop

It’s key to list your book on multiple platforms such as Indiebound, Bookshop, Barnes and Noble, and Apple Books, but we cannot deny the importance of optimizing your book’s presence on the largest bookselling site in the world: Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered about specific ways to make your book stand out among the millions of books listed on Amazon, we’ve got you covered with a list of tips to make your page look optimized and professional!

Book Description

Your book description (after the book cover) is one of the first things people will see when looking at your book on Amazon, so here are some ways to make it pop.

  • Make the first sentence of your description a quick, catchy blurb of your book, and put it in bold!
    • Christopher Parker has a great example of this, with his short but gripping description of the book right off the bat, front and center.
    • You can then go into a more detailed description of your book, after initially catching their attention with the first sentence!
  • Add quotes to the end of your book’s description to give readers a taste of what is to come if they read the book!

Editorial Reviews

The Editorial Reviews section on your book’s Amazon page highlights reviews, usually from non-customers, such as other authors, media outlets, bloggers, or experts in the field (like an industry publication). However, if you don’t have as many reviews from that kind of outlet, you can start out by adding reviews you’ve received from Amazon, Goodreads, or NetGalley!

Some examples of Books Forward authors that have Amazon pages with Editorial Reviews:

As you can see on Christopher Parker’s listing, he uses quotes from other authors, Kirkus, and bloggers. And Kelle Z. Riley used reviews from readers on Amazon and NetGalley! Either way is beneficial. As the editorial review section is more eye-catching and closer to the top of the Amazon page, readers don’t have to scroll all the way down to Customer Reviews to see what readers are thinking of the book.

Editorial Reviews highlight some of the most positive reviews of your book, as well as aspects of the content that maybe weren’t covered in the book’s description.

About The Author

Adding information and editing your About The Author section gives readers more context into who YOU are!

You can customize your Author page in your Amazon Author Central account. Even if you only have one book, it is important to set up your author page because it adds your author bio and headshot to each individual book’s Amazon page. This gives readers more information on who you are and how to keep up to date with your author endeavors!

Here are some examples of authors who have great Author pages and About The Author sections for reference:

As you can see on all of those author pages, each of them has all of their books listed, their author bios, their author headshots, and other places you can find them (websites or social media accounts).

Benefits of editing your About The Author section:

  • Would you rather purchase from somebody who has a profile picture, references, and a decent description, or would you rather purchase from an empty profile with just a photo of the object for sale? When authors do not have a profile picture or even a description, readers are less inclined to trust that it’s a reliable source.
  • It drives sales of your book and other works if you have them. If you are an author with multiple books, having all of them linked in one section under the author makes it much easier for the reader to not only buy your books but just to find your books in general!
  • It helps readers keep up with you. You can link to your website and social media accounts so that readers can follow along with you! Readers are less inclined to stay up to date with you via Amazon, so linking to where they can get updates more often can be really helpful to building and keeping a fanbase growing.

A+ Content

Have you noticed the brand-themed graphics that some authors have on their book’s Amazon page under the From The Publisher section?

Here are a few examples from some authors we work with:

Amazon recently made A+ Content available to indie published authors, and you just have to be approved through Amazon as a professional seller who owns your book’s brand. Once you are approved, you are able to add A+ Content to products that are part of your approved brand catalog!

The next step after approval: design some graphics!

  • Once you are in the A+ Content design section of Amazon after approval, you’ll be redirected to an area where you choose the image sizes you’d like to add to your book’s page.
  • Using the measurement and graphic sizes you choose, you can then go to Canva, or any other design program, to create your own graphics. The most important part about the graphics is making sure the colors and fonts match the theme of your book.
  • You can then pull quotes you’ve received – whether it’s reviews from authors in your genre or industry publications like Kirkus or Booklife – as the text on your graphics. As you can see from the examples above, both authors stuck to the brand of their book for their graphics and pulled quotes that highlight the content of their books.
  • Avoid using the term “Goodreads reviewer” or “Amazon reviewer” because odds are that Amazon will not approve this graphic.
  • Another idea for graphics is your author photo and bio, which you can see J. Elle did for both of her books.

It can take up to seven days for Amazon to approve your A+ Content!

  • Benefits for A+ Content, other than more brand cohesiveness and professionalism:
  • Describe your book by including opinions from readers who grasped aspects of the book that the book’s description may not relay.
  • Use enhanced images and text placements to catch the reader’s eye and attention.
    Can result in higher conversion rates, increased traffic and increased sales when used effectively!

With these tips in mind, you can get to work on creating a fun, inviting and optimized book page on Amazon!

BookBub

Tips and tricks for authors using BookBub

Whether you’re a new author or one who’s been around the block, the name BookBub has most likely come across your desk. “Well… what is it? Another website? Another login? Another password to remember?!” Oof, we know. There are a few… but don’t miss out on this one!

We here at Books Forward are big fans of BookBub and all the opportunities their services can provide. BookBub is one of the top tier bargain e-book newsletters, with one of the largest networks reaching millions of email subscribers everyday. Authors can advertise their discounted e-books and reach millions of readers who are willing to download cheaper books and try out new authors. In what BookBub calls their “Featured Deal” service, authors have seen their books hit #1 on Amazon. It also helps build numbers of reviews and rankings, and authors have seen downloads in the thousands.

Now despite all the amazing results and testimonials, BookBub isn’t necessarily your golden ticket to the bestseller lists, but can certainly help you build your readership! Here are a few of our tips to get started.

Create a profile: Having a presence on BookBub can help optimize your search engine results. Make sure to update your display picture, biography and even list some of your recommended reads. This is a great way to connect with your peers and to even see where you could advertise your book. (For example: if an author has a large amount of followers on BookBub and their readers would most likely vibe with your book, think about tapping into that network!) We recommend adding new books to your list, every other week or so.

BookBub Ads: BookBub allows you to target other authors on the platform (which is where the last tip can come in handy!) You can create ads by using the system’s templates or design your own. We recommend exploring your genre and targeting similar authors listed in that category.

Featured Deals: Featured deals are where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. But you do have to be patient! Featured Deals don’t happen right away and can take time and persistence. They can be pricey depending on the genre and the regions — if you get a deal within the U.S., expect to pay more. However, the payoff is worth it. Be considerate of the genre you are submitting in and don’t hesitate to try different genres and price points. Be sure to fill out the comment section with any accolades or awards the book has received! Once your feature deal is live, don’t be shy to advertise on other platforms — you can use this promotion to create some really great momentum.

Overall, the most important lesson to learn with BookBub (and book marketing in general!) is the more you put, in the more you’ll get back. If you decide to apply yourself to the BookBub platform, be sure to use it consistently — optimize your profile, try using ads and submit frequently to Featured Deals, and it will be worth the effort in the end! Every reader counts and BookBub is a great place to meet more.

A Writer’s Guide to Goodreads

Readers and authors alike flock to Goodreads to find new books, enter giveaways, rate books, write reviews, and monitor stats of the unending sea of books that can be found online. So, what are the key things to keep in mind as a writer who wants their book to gain traction on Goodreads? We’ve put together a list of tips that can be helpful for first time authors breaking into this site.

  1. Use The Site
    This may seem obvious, but the most important part of entering a new digital space is understanding how it works. Participate as a reader and look at other author pages to build an idea of what your page might look like. Rate and review books, enter some giveaways to see how they work, check out the array of lists readers can vote books onto, and join the community. Integrating yourself first allows you to not only understand the site, but also understand the kinds of people who use it.
  2. Build Your Author Profile
    Create an author profile page that gives all the information you want to share with your readers to make finding you and your book easier. Include a short bio, a professional headshot, the genres you write in, and links to any website or social media accounts you have. You want them to be able to follow you easily across the web for updated book information so be sure to use links that are updated.
  3. Optimize and Claim Your Book Page
    In order for people to find your book, you will need to input its information. Be sure to include a good quality cover photo, an optimized description, and updated metadata like ISBN, publishing information, and price. Then you will need to claim the book as your own from your author profile so that it is connected to your account. If you are interested in what we can help with on the Goodreads optimization side, let us know, and we can tell you what we’ve done for our previous authors.
  4. Set Up a Giveaway
    One of the best ways to get your book in front of more readers on Goodreads is to offer a giveaway. You are able to list both print and online giveaways and you can set the number of copies you are willing to give. The great thing about giveaways is that whoever enters the giveaway keeps the book in their “want to read” list whether they win or not. This means that your book will be on their mind for future book purchases they will make, and it shows up in their friends’ feeds. It’s great exposure and can really help you gain interest.
  5. Add Your Book to Lists
    Goodreads has hundreds of lists that you can vote your book onto. Some fairly generic like “100 Must Read Books” and others that are hyper specific like “Fictitious Shipwrecks.” The more people that vote for the book on these lists, the higher they move and the more visibility your book has. Doing a mix of both broader and more specific lists is the best way to approach this aspect of Goodreads. Get your friends and family to help you raise your ranking and post about them on your socials to get readers involved.
  6. Engage with Readers
    Goodreads is a social platform so don’t forget to be social! Respond to positive reviews or post them on your other socials. Host Author Q&As on your Goodreads profile to answer questions about your writing process or your characters. Continue to use the site as a reader as well to stay current on what books and authors are popular at the moment. Social channels are always changing so staying up to date is your best chance for success!

 

book publicity firm

How does a book publicity firm decide which authors to represent?

Many writers dream of publishing a book, but few realize that publishing is just the first step in a dynamic journey of getting your book in front of–and loved by–readers. Our book publicity firm Books Forward has represented more than 700 amazing authors during our 20 plus years in business, and a question I hear frequently is “How do you decide which authors you represent?”.

We are so lucky to hear from incredible authors every day interested in using our services. While we wish we could help everyone (seriously, I’d love to help every writer fulfill their biggest book dreams!), we have to be selective about the authors we represent for a number of reasons. And with thousands of books launching daily in the U.S. alone, I want to share our selection process with writers so they can make the smartest, best choices before querying publicists for representation.

Our team at Books Forward choose the authors we represent by asking ourselves the following questions:

First and foremost, are we excited about the book? As avid readers ourselves, we love great books, and we read a lot of them! Our team has diverse reading tastes, so we embrace a variety of genres and content, but across the board we are looking for books that pull us in and keep us hooked.

Do we see specific ways to promote this book to its target audience, and help it stand out among the competition? We want to help our authors reach as wide an audience as possible, but we also want to help them reach their specific target audiences–aka the readers who gravitate towards (and are engaged enough to buy) this specific type of literature. The better we understand a book’s target audience, the better we are able to help get that book into the hands of fans.

Does our team have experience in this genre? Can we bring our A-level expertise to this project? We always want to bring our best to every project. We’ve worked with all kinds of authors in almost every genre, and our publicists and digital strategists each specialize in different areas. We always consider if we are a strong match for a campaign, and if we’re not, we may refer authors to another firm. We’re always transparent about the best options for them and their books!

Will the author be a partner in publicity? We bring a vast amount of work and expertise to every campaign; however, publicity is a partnership. We are looking for authors who will be available for interviews, open to writing guest articles, active on social media and willing to promote the book to their own networks. We want our books to succeed, and author participation is essential for establishing a brand and a loyal readership.

Will the author have awesome goals, but also realistic expectations? After more than two decades in the publishing industry, we have seen (and continue to see!) publishing evolve constantly. The industry is more competitive than ever, and we seek to partner with authors who understand that the promotional tactics that worked even just 1-3 years ago may no longer be as effective. Our best clients are those who are open to trying promotional strategies that are innovative and out-of-the-box, as well as tried-and-tested publicity tactics.

Is there a budget in place for publicity and marketing? If they are indie publishing, are they willing to work with a book-specific editor and designer to get the book into the best shape possible? While we always seek to find promotional solutions that work within an author’s specific budget, quality publishing and promotion requires both time and money. A book is, in many ways, a product–and cutting corners reduces the quality of the product, as well as its ability to reach its target market. We look for authors willing to invest time and resources to publish and promote their book, so that together we can give each title its best chance of success.

And lastly, does this book help move the world forward? Here at Books Forward, we want to represent books that elevate voices from a diverse group of authors, break barriers in the publishing industry and convey a story that will resonate with readers. We’ve been fortunate to work with so many authors who are doing just that–and we are thrilled and grateful to continue representing incredible, innovative authors for years to come.

I hope this helps you on your journey to publishing and planning promotion for your book!

This post originally appeared on https://www.teenink.com/ in July 2021.

Marissa DeCuir is the president and partner of Books Forward publicity and Books Fluent publishing. As a former journalist, she’s always looking for the best hooks to utilize in author publicity and book marketing and believes in taking a personal and strategic can-do approach to help authors reach their goals.

Ask An Expert: Interview with Book Cover Designer Eric Labacz

Ask An Expert: Interview with Book Cover Designer Eric Labacz on Great Book Cover Design Trends in 2021 and Beyond

What design elements contribute to a great book cover design? And what book cover design trends are popular in 2021 and beyond? Today on our Ask an Expert series, we’re sitting down with book cover designer Eric Labacz, who has created some of our most eye-catching and popular cover designs for our sister publishing company Books Fluent. Eric shares what key elements make for timeless, great book cover design, how genre should influence cover design, and some of the biggest cover trends we’re seeing right now.

What do you enjoy most about designing book covers?

Hands down the creative process that is involved in communicating certain details about a book in a unique way that urges readers to explore it further.

How long have you been a book cover designer? How did you get involved in this industry?

I have been designing covers for four years now. Prior to that, I worked for an agency and worked as a Senior Designer and Art Director in the toy, video and food packaging industries. In 2016, I decided to create a home-based studio and I was fortunate to connect with a local publisher a year into it. She started giving me cover projects and I instantly fell in love with cover design. I decided to put all my efforts into connecting with other publisher and author clients and, four years later, here we are.

In your opinion, what are the key elements of great book cover design?

Well, of course, you need the title, the subtitle if it pertains, and the author’s name, but the difference between a so-so cover and a great cover are how those elements are creatively arranged along with imagery and color. An interesting and engaging composition, a focal point that intrigues the reader and eye-catching colors are some elements of great covers.

Should a book’s genre influence a book’s cover design? If so, how does genre influence design?

Absolutely. Readers who are looking for a new book expect to see certain design criteria which communicate the genre to them. If you were in the business of selling toasters, would you sell them in boxes that have a picture of a blender on them? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, you would have a lot of confused, angry customers. Similarly, you don’t want your non-fiction book on furniture making to have a romance-styled photo of embracing lovers on the cover and vice-versa.

Genre definitely affects the choices I make regarding the types of images, fonts and colors to use on a cover and how to arrange them. I need to get a reader to look at a cover and think, “Ok, this is scary, or this is funny or this is very suspenseful” and educate their decision-making. Going back to my favorite part of cover design, it is such a fun challenge to figure out how to communicate a genre using collectively understood images and meanings, but do it in a way that is different, clever and makes a statement.

What are some of the biggest trends you’ve noticed in book cover design in 2021?

One of the big ones I’ve noticed is what I call modern retro. There seems to be this love affair with combining all things 70s and 80’s with modern elements and I really dig it.

Another one of my favorites from the past few years is the trend of partially obscuring and affecting individual title letters as they interact with a cover image. I see that continue this year as cover designers continue to push the boundaries of how we read letter forms and I really enjoy it.

I have been noticing a lot of really bold, bright colors and patterns this year as well as the continuing trend of titles taking up the entire cover. SVG fonts have become really popular over the past few years and their use continues too. The SVG format allows for fonts to appear in different transparencies and I see them a lot on covers now. They have a hand painted or drawn feel.

The use of minimalism on covers will always be with us and I see designers play with it to keep it current.

I also see the continued trend of combining imagery with silhouetted forms. Designers are pushing how they interact with one another and some of the results are really interesting. Lastly, I have been really enjoying looking at new illustrations on covers and watching how digital illustration techniques continue to change. I see a lot of unique, gritty-brushed and textural illustration styles right now and I see it continuing as digital drawing software and apps continue to evolve. It’s some pretty exciting stuff.

Learn more about Eric Labacz, and see more of his awesome cover designs, at http://www.labaczdesign.com. Learn more about publishing your book with Books Fluent at https://booksfluent.com.

publication dates

Did your book’s publication date shift? Here’s why that’s OK

I, for one, hate change. I’m a planner and a list-maker, and switching gears makes me dizzy. Checklists, deadlines and color-coded markers are the backbone of our society, sure, but when plans change, it’s better to adapt than to fight it out.

Why do publication dates change?

Publication dates can shift for a variety of reasons. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in every case, your team may suggest a date change because they believe your release would be more successful on a different day. Your team knows that publishing a book is more often a marathon than a sprint. While detours may add a mile or two to the journey, they can also better prepare you for crossing the finish line.

Here are a few common reasons for moving a book’s release date:

Production Delays: From editing and designing to printing and shipping ARCs, a lot of work goes into production, and there are often several eyes and hands working on a book all at once. A thorough publishing process opens up the possibility for delays. Editors often factor time into their schedule for a few things to go wrong. Even so, if a snag is hit in one department, it may cause others to fall behind too.

Unforeseen Circumstances: The pandemic is one of the most monumental unforeseen circumstances we’ve encountered in a while. Due to its impact on travel, many books that had planned in-person book tours had to adjust their schedules. To see some of the hundreds of altered publication dates, check out this spreadsheet from Publishers Weekly.

Competition for Media Attention: Say the planned publication date for your book was set for Election Day, or a similarly newsworthy date. As the day approaches, and you realize the impending media frenzy, your team may decide to move your release date out in order to give it a better shot at securing publicity.

Catching the Trend Wave: Book releases can also shift to earlier dates on the calendar! Typically, this is because your team is looking to capitalize on a seasonal or topically relevant trend that would help your book reach a larger audience.

How to make your date change work for you

If you haven’t begun promoting the book yet, it will be relatively easy to make a radical change, should you choose to do so. You can switch from a summer release to a fall one, for example, which was the route many publishers chose in light of the pandemic.

Or, if you’re simply recovering from a small production delay, your date may only shift back one or two weeks. In any case, let your publicist know about your date change ASAP, if they aren’t already in the know. This will be important as they begin to create press materials and organize their outreach to the media.

What if promotion has already begun using the old date?

If you’ve already begun promoting the book, a date change may feel a bit more stressful. Rest assured, though, it’s still manageable!

First, you’ll need to let your publicity team know ASAP about the new date. Your publicist may need to update interested media contacts, and they’ll want to have the correct information for their pitching moving forward.

Plan to spread the word of your date change on social media–here is where a pinned tweet may come in handy! A pinned tweet allows you to showcase one tweet at the top of your profile page, so it won’t get buried at the bottom of your feed over time. Pinning a tweet about your date change will make sure that it stays on your readers’ radars. If you’ve never pinned a tweet before, here are some helpful tips from Business Insider.

Also, be sure to make any necessary changes to your website and Twitter and Facebook banners. You may need to have new graphics made accordingly.

If you are using an email newsletter to keep friends, family, and fans updated, you should send out a special announcement of the date change as well.

What if readers forget about my book or lose interest due to the delay?

This is a valid concern, but it’s equally possible for the delay to translate into added anticipation for the release!

When in doubt, get creative: ask yourself what you can offer to readers that will be sure to keep your book on the forefront of their minds. This will likely look different for every author depending on your audience’s needs, but here are a few options to get you started:

You can plan a special giveaway in the interim, such as offering free signed bookplates to your audience. Or, you can set up a FB Live chat for your would-be pub day, where you play a few games and answer questions from your followers.

In the end, publication days may change, but our love for a good book never will.

 

romance novels

Why are romance novels most commonly published in paperback?

Ever wonder why romance novels are always published in paperback? During quarantine, I’ve been reading a LOT of romance, and every time I get a new romance novel from the bookstore or a publisher, I noticed they’re always published as paperback. Typically, when a book is first published, they’re produced as hardcover. Hardcover books are more expensive, and can drive a higher profit for publishers in the first six months to a year of a book’s life. It’s after that point that publishers will continue printing the book, but in paperback.

But why is romance different? Why do these books begin their careers as paperback books as opposed to the more expensive and higher quality hardcover?

The short answer is DEMAND. Historically, romance has been the best-selling genre of books in existence. Of course, this fluctuates and changes, and in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in true crime and thriller genres — but from a standpoint of how the industry started, romance was always the highest in demand. Paperbacks are not only cheaper to produce, but they are also easier. So when romance novels were flying off of the shelves, it made sense to get them into the hands of readers as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.

Mass-market paperback novels are also extremely popular in the romance genre. Mass-market paperback novels are the kind you can find for $5 to $10 at airport, grocery stores, etc. They’re often much smaller and more compact than the average paperback. Perfect for tossing in your purse or on-the-go reading! I’ve bought them before simply because they’re the biggest bang for my buck, though admittedly they hurt my eyes!

Notice where they are sold … they’re sold in places that are most convenient to their target audience; middle-aged women. They’re also sold at an affordable price that can act as an add on to any order. I’ve personally been guilty of adding one to my cart at Target simply because it didn’t make that big of a dent in the grocery list, and I doubted that my husband would even notice.

So there you have it; our consistent and constant demand of these spicy, salacious stories are what make them produced at such an affordable price, even right out of the gate. A huge thanks to the publishers for giving us fresh, affordable titles — we see you, and appreciate you for looking out for us and our grocery shopping!

author headshots

Why it’s important to take a great author headshot

When releasing a book, there are a lot of moving pieces. Of course writing the book and marketing the book takes precedence, but a lot of smaller steps can be overlooked and may have a huge impact!

First impressions are everything. Especially in a digital world – our eyes naturally gravitate towards book covers, websites, social media platforms and the quality each of those possess. We often refer to the “restaurant” metaphor: If you have two restaurants side by side, one is empty, run down, dark lighting, unclear of what their menu will look like versus a full restaurant, well lit, bustling and beautiful restaurant – which one are you most likely to go into? Consider this when building your profile. Is your website warm and welcoming? Does it look like a real person or just advertisements? This way of thinking narrows right down to your author headshot. Did you scroll through the dark depths of your photo roll and pick a picture from 10 years ago? Is it blurry? Is your pet in it? These are all things you want to avoid when settling on an author headshot.

Photography can be expensive, but if you can get professional photos done, we highly recommend including this in your marketing budget. You can hire locally for headshots and press shots, and these photos will work for radio, newspaper, your press release and beyond. Having these photos can go a long way and will keep your brand looking professional.

If you are on a tight budget, there are options. You can hire a college student, somebody who is looking for experience in photography – perhaps they need for their final project and will take your headshots at no or low cost. Another option is asking a family member or friend to help you take photos. Most phones these days come with high quality cameras.

All you need is good lighting (natural lightning works best, or invest in a ring light – these are also great for Zoom interviews!) a plain background and the editing tool in your phone. Refrain from using filtered apps for your headshot, as these can really tamper with the quality of the image. Focus on slightly and subtly brightening and adding a little bit of contrast. And take multiple shots – you’ll want options to choose from! Don’t be shy to get the best author headshots you can to represent your book.

All in all, remember to be current and stay relevant. You are an author, and that needs to be clear and concise when people see your headshot on the back of your book and the front of your social media platforms. This is your business. It may be a small part of the bigger picture, but it’s an important one that will help sell your book.

bookplates

What are bookplates, and do readers and authors use them?

What are bookplates and how can I use them?

Have you ever loaned someone a well-loved copy of your favorite book, only to never lay eyes on that book ever again? Have you decided that generosity is futile because no one understands the deep personal attachment you have with your books? Yeah, me too.

I still cringe when I think about loaning a friend my copy of “The Fault in Our Stars” in middle school. As I handed over the book, she asked me, Can I use highlighter in this? The audacity.

Well, bookplates were invented to solve this problem by documenting the personal relationship you have with your book and ensuring that everyone knows this book belongs to you. Are bookplates passive aggressive? Maybe, depending on who you ask.

But they can also be a fun way for an author to personalize their book for readers, even during a pandemic, and can create a unique experience that will leave them eagerly awaiting your next release.

A Brief History

A bookplate, sometimes called an ex libris plate, is a label that is affixed inside a book. Traditionally, bookplates were used to indicate ownership, and historians have found evidence of bookplates being used in Ancient Egypt and Europe during the Middle Ages. Prior to the advent of the printing press in the 15th-century, books were rare and extremely valuable, so it was important to mark ownership in case a book was lost or stolen–but whether or not a bookplate actually resulted in more books being returned to their owner is unknown.

It’s safe to say that early iterations of the bookplate were more practical than ornamental. Later on, however, these inscriptions developed into elaborate artistic expressions, as wealthy patrons commissioned designs from famous contemporary artists. Take a look at this bookplate designed by Albrecht Dürer (circa the late 15th or early 16th century) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/387572

Since bookplates were primarily used to reflect ownership, they often included a family crest or coat of arms. Artists sometimes inscribed these by hand or made a woodcut or engraving to transfer their designs, as Dürer is known for.

Nowadays, bookplates are usually affixed to the inside cover or front matter using a sticker or a stamp. Bookplates have also taken on a variety of uses. They are still widely used to indicate ownership, but they can also be used to display an author’s signature or otherwise personalize a book.

An Author’s Signature

Adding a signature to a book helps to bridge the gap between the author and the reader. The personal connections made during a book event or book signing can turn even a casual reader into a lifelong fan of an author’s work.

Although the current pandemic has halted many in-person gatherings, book signings have thankfully continued on through the use of bookplates!

Bookplates are a safe way for authors to send their signature to anyone, from booksellers to fans, while abiding by social distancing measures. If you can’t meet someone in person to sign their book, sending a signed bookplate their way is a great alternative.

An author might also choose to sign bookplates for efficiency if they are signing a number of books all at once for a bookstore, book club, or other large event.

Here are some examples of authors using bookplates in recent months (be sure to follow each of these authors on Twitter for more updates!)

Sara Sligar: https://twitter.com/saraxsligar/status/1264245770582028289

Maggie Stiefvater: https://twitter.com/mstiefvater/status/1361431121486114819

Adam Silvera: https://twitter.com/AdamSilvera/status/1361392998496440322

Publicity Plan

At this point, you may be wondering, how can bookplates become a part of my publicity plan? When do I use them and who should I send them to?

Bookplates are especially useful when paired with virtual events. You can offer to send signed bookplates to a bookstore in advance of an event, ensuring that each attendee has access to a signed copy.

Not only does this benefit attendees who now have access to personalized books, but this also helps build a good relationship with your local bookseller. Bookplates can be used as an incentive to encourage attendees to buy their books from their local store instead of from Amazon, in the spirit of a shop-local campaign!

You can also offer to send signed bookplates as a free gift for fans who pre-order a copy of the book. Ask fans to DM or email their receipt to you, and then mail them a bookplate with a personal note thanking them for their support.

Additionally, bookplates can be used as an exclusive perk for a giveaway. A bookplate giveaway can be held in conjunction with a virtual event or on social media, just for fun!

Get Creative!

Although traditionally bookplates have been used in a limited number of ways, the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of unexpected ways to personalize books for readers, and to make your book stand out from the crowd.

Some authors, like David Sedaris, add drawings or sketches to accompany their signature. These drawings often relate to a specific meaning within the book, operating like an inside joke or a teaser for what’s to come.

Another author recently took this idea and turned it up a few notches. Will Maclean, author of “The Apparition Phase” created a unique and memorable publicity campaign by personalizing copies of his book in a way no one has seen before.

Maclean signed 1000 copies of his book, but made things a bit more interesting by “hiding” a 1000-word short story within these copies. Each book contained one word from the story, as well as a number (ranging from 1 to 1000) indicating its position within the story. When all 1000 words are arranged in the correct order, the short story will be revealed.

This tactic turned readers into eager detectives, hoping to string all the words together. Fans flocked to Twitter, sharing each word that was included within their signed copy and keeping track of progress. 

https://twitter.com/lovedreadinthis/status/1331611138711285760

At the end of the day, bookplates are all about showing readers and booksellers that you care. They help to create a heartfelt memory for the reader which will have them reluctant to loan their copy of your book out to anyone – even their closest friends!

Looking to have your bookplates designed? Email info@booksforward.com to get started!