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!

Your next great book club pick

Whether everyone takes turns choosing a book, or the entire club votes, picking the next read is always challenging. You want to pick something that will spark discussion but has a wide appeal. We’ve put together a list of recommendations that we think will be a great fit for any book club.

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
We actually did read this in my book club years ago, and it was so enjoyable. Everyone related to a different character in a different way, and it remains my favorite book to recommend for that very reason.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This is a classic that will appeal to clubs who love historical fiction, coming-of-age stories and strong women.

There There by Tommy Orange
I never would have picked this up if it weren’t for my book club, which would have been a huge loss. The stories are so powerful, and the way Orange weaves them together is masterful.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Maybe not the best choice for a pandemic, but the way this story is weaved together likely will have everyone talking — and might even lead to some interesting end-of-the-world theories.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
There’s a reason this book has been everywhere. It is full of questions that have no clear or concrete answers but will keep you thinking for months after reading it.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
If you’re looking for a humorous book that also explores emotion and has a great cast of characters, this is a great fit.

Born A Crime by Travor Noah
The affable TV host’s presence translates well to the page, but the stories about his childhood will capture you even more than his humor. (Note: If you get the chance, grab the audiobook because he’s a great narrator as well!)

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Science-fiction is a tough choice for many people, but this book paints such remarkable metaphors that are applicable to our reality — many different realities reflecting divides along racial lines, income lines, and more.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
If you are in a book club that likes to pick sides, look no further. A marriage is tested when the husband is sent to prison, and most people land firmly on the husband’s side … or the wife’s.

Educated by Tara Westover
This was one of the wildest true stories I’ve ever read and one that had us Googling “did this really happen” during our book club meeting.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Blending fiction with some horrifying truths, Whitehead’s writing will have you highlighting passages to bring up at your book club meeting to see if they blew everyone else away as well.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
It’s likely that most people in a book club have experienced feeling lost during a quarter-life crisis or have dealt with the circumstances around aging parents. This slim volume explores both beautifully.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
Hilarious, heartbreaking, and so so smart, this should be required reading for any book club with white women.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
A meditation on faith without being overtly religious, Gyasi also dives into grief, family, and science in interesting and often devastating ways.

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
This would be a commitment because it’s very long, but there were so many times when I was reading this that I wanted to be able to talk to someone and ask them if they were just as shocked as I was by what we were reading.

Find this complete list of great book club picks at bookshop.org.

Books Ted Lasso brought to England (probably)

Ted Lasso was one of my absolute favorite new discoveries of 2020, and I thought it would be fun to peek inside the luggage he brought with him to start his new job in England.

  1. Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu Ted has shown a baking prowess just like the main character in this graphic novel, and I feel like Ted would be absolutely hooked on its team spirit and the absolute sweetness.
  2. One Life by Megan Rapinoe If I know Ted (and I do because I’ve watched the show several times), I know that he worships Megan Rapinoe as a hero on and off the soccer field.
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle Ted has been shown to be a fantastic father, and I feel like this book would be a perfect buddy read with his son.
  4. Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson When Ted told a bookseller he was going to be moving to London, they recommended this book.
  5. Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez Of course this book about a rising soccer star is on Ted’s radar. “If it’s good enough for Reese, it’s good enough for me.”
  6. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis Coach Beard watched the show with Ted and then recommended this book to further his chess education.
  7. Darius the Great Is Not OK by Adib Khorram A focus on soccer and discovering one’s identity? A perfect fit for Ted.
  8. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby A true British classic about football and all the weird rituals that come with it makes a great introduction for Ted.
  9. Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese Of course Ted reads romance. And he especially loves a romance with a feisty, strong soccer star like Willa.
  10. The Collected Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle He said he felt like he had to read it to complete his British education.

Interview: Brynn Markham on Finding Writing Community and Support Through James River Writers

“Writing is hard and it can be isolating. Community provides the vital support to keep going. James River Writers provides that community.” This was the ethos that inspired James River Writers, and it has kept this dynamic, active, and connected collective of wordsmiths thriving ever since.

Today on our blog, we’re sitting down with Brynn Markham, Director of Programs and Communications for JRW, to discuss how this multifaceted group helped revitalize Richmond’s literary scene, and why writing communities can help improve and support each member’s individual craft.

1). What is and who are James River Writers? What does your writing community do?

James River Writers (JRW) is a nonprofit that builds community by connecting, supporting, and inspiring writers. We provide programming year-round to help writers at all skill levels develop their craft, as well as the business side of their work. In addition to our signature event, the Annual James River Writers Conference, we offer Master Classes, a Writing Show series, on-demand Encore! classes, and opportunities to socialize and connect through our monthly Writers Wednesday events.

2). How did JRW originate, and how did you get involved?

JRW was founded 20 years ago (next year!) when local writers in Richmond, Virginia, saw a need for supporting the growth of its budding literary community. This small group of writers hosted its first conference the following year, and James River Writers has continued to grow its membership and program offerings exponentially since then.

As a nonprofit communications professional in the Greater Richmond area, my work with public media (VPM PBS/NPR) connected me to James River Writers through my community engagement efforts. As a lover of writing, especially poetry, I always admired JRWs work from afar, and wanted to get involved with their efforts, both professionally and personally. In the fall of 2019, I made the decision to leave my work at VPM, in order to provide space for the perfect opportunity to come along. I wanted a flexible workplace that fueled my passions and allowed me to continue to work in Richmond’s nonprofit sector. James River Writers was the perfect fit. I now have the opportunity to add value to the community I live in, while also (selfishly?) benefiting from being inspired by talented writers every day!

3). What are the benefits of being involved in a writers community like JRW? How have you seen writers evolve and grow?

I joined JRW in February of 2020, right before COVID hit. As a result, I was only able to host two in-person events before we made the pivot to online programming, including hosting our signature event, the Annual James River Writers Conference, virtually.

I definitely had reservations about whether I would be able to effectively connect to our community in a meaningful way when there were no “live” options to do so. But this community of writers is nothing short of amazing, and my reservations were completely unfounded. Our membership is highly engaged and extremely supportive of one another. I’ve mentioned several times to everyone that you can plan all the details of an event or program, but if the participants and presenters are not authentic and personable, your planning is for naught. It’s the people that make an organization. The relationships within James River Writers are what make it such a success. Our seasoned presenters and instructors, like Newbery Medalist Meg Medina and Emmy Award-Winner Hank Phillippi Ryan, genuinely want to see our budding writers succeed. Our new members want to learn and be in community with one another. As one of our long-time members, accomplished author Karen A. Chase has said, “JRW…is so wonderful at championing all writing genres, encouraging diversity, and giving rise to varied viewpoints. If you’re a JRW member, as you grow and gain successes, you’re always welcomed back in to share that knowledge with writers coming up. JRW is the ladder of success, and it’s always there for everyone whether they’re on their first book, or their fourteenth.”

Writing is hard and it can be isolating. Community provides the vital support to keep going. James River Writers provides that community.

4). The James River Writers Conference appears to be your flagship event. What goes into creating a successful writers conference? What advice would you give to writers who want to make the most of their participation in a writers conference (whether they’re part of a panel or event, or just going as an attendee)?

Yes, our Annual James River Writers Conference, held in October every year, is our flagship event.

Because my first JRW Conference was hosted online, one of our main concerns was whether or not we would be able to recreate that sense of connection and community that keeps everyone coming back to us. Luckily, our attendees and speakers overwhelmingly told us that they were amazed at how connected they felt during our conference, in this online space. To do so, we not only incorporated the important professional development opportunities to teach the business and craft of writing, we also included ample opportunities to network and connect with other writers, as well as time to benefit from one anothers’ perspectives in more relaxed settings. As a writer, to make the most out of your time, force yourself to come out of your shell (so many of us tend to fight this), establish some new contacts, and then continue to connect after the conference. Writing is most definitely a marathon. You need someone to cheer you on, and to offer you refreshment along the path when you need it.

5). What suggestions would you make to writers who want to join–or get “more” out of–a dedicated writing group or workshop?

I would suggest that, in order to get the most out of writing groups, you do actively have to participate. Don’t just pop in to ask a specific question, or to make a specific contact, and then never be seen again. Some of the best moments that result in next steps for writers come from conversations with others before and after our programs. And, whatever time and energy you put into your community of writers, you’ll get back tenfold. Our community celebrates the successes of one another, both privately and publicly. Many times, they collaborate on events when their works present natural opportunities to do so. Writers are some of the most supportive people because they know how hard it can be. You’ll never see a successful writer only singing their own praises.

I also highly recommend building up your contacts on social media, and following those writers, agents, and publishers that align with your work. This will help you stay informed of submissions opportunities and industry trends, and feel inspired and seen on the days you just can’t seem to get any words on paper.

6). In your opinion, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?

This is a tricky question, because the answer is most definitely different for everyone. And, depending on where you are on your writing journey it also changes for the individual. Success for a writer can be as simple as setting a goal and keeping to the measures you set to get there. Showing up each day and putting “pen to paper.” If you start measuring your success by industry standards, then that’s likely to keep you from getting you where you want to be. As a recent presenter on one of our panels put it – Are you still having fun? Enjoying yourself? If not, then stop and think about why that is. Are you constantly stopping the flow of ideas because you’re obsessed with the editing or word choices, at every turn? If so, change course. You’re probably not focusing on the writing, but on that goalpost.

If you’re interested in checking out James River Writers, a great entry point is our free monthly Writers Wednesdays events. Now offered online, and open to writers at all levels of expertise, Writers Wednesdays offer a chance to network and socialize in a relaxed environment. We’d love for you to join our community of writers.

Learn more about James River Writers here: https://jamesriverwriters.org
Follow James River Writers on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Moving Forward After Rejection as an Author

Every author we’ve ever met has experienced a rejection of some kind: from an agent, a publisher, a writing program, you name it! While it can be frustrating or disheartening, it’s totally normal and part of a writer’s life.

This week on our blog, we’re asking our authors to share about a time they’ve experienced a rejection during their writing career — and also how they moved past it, and where they’re at now in their publishing journey. These relatable, thoughtful stories remind us that we’ve all “been there,” and hopefully encourage and inspire us to keep writing!

20+ Rejections, 19 Drafts — and an Instant NYT Bestseller
“I received 20+ rejections by literary agents on WINGS OF EBONY while querying and several from editors. And yet, WINGS OF EBONY debuted as an instant NYT bestseller. Back when I was querying, when all I had were those rejections in my hands and not a glimpse of what could be possible if I’d persisted, hope is what held me together. A sense of stubborn tenacity that wouldn’t accept I couldn’t get this book on shelves.

I wish I had some kitschy practical six steps with funky cool alliteration you could do to handle rejections to your writing, fix the problem, or write a book that’ll never see a rejection! But I don’t. Because that’s impossible for many reasons, one of which is the very nature of writing is incredibly subjective so what’s good to one agent or editor may not resonate with another. The same is true for readers. Rejection can also be instructive, motivating, depending on how you frame it. Just try to not let it frame YOU. Remember, the greatest tool in your toolkit when facing rejection — because it’s inevitable and recurring — is persistence.

I rewrote WINGS OF EBONY multiple times. The copy on shelves is draft nineteen. NINETEEN. As cliche as it sounds, keep trying. Belief in yourself is what’s ultimately going to get you there.”

— J. Elle, author of the New York Times bestseller Wings of Ebony

All About the But
“It’s always about the but.

‘Hi Sid, thanks so much for sending! I did receive and I dove in this past weekend but I’m afraid it’s not quite right for my list. I’m so sorry to disappoint. Thank you again for sharing your work with me. It was a pleasure to connect and best of luck with the book!’

This ‘but’ came from a prominent agent, and I received a few more before finding an agent and a publisher for the first installment in my Seventh Flag trilogy. It was a new experience for me. As a Pulitzer-nominated war correspondent for a major news agency, I would write several stories a day knowing that they would be accepted, edited and published. I found inspiration knowing that Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of the best-selling books of all time, was rejected by more than 100 publishers, and that Vincent Van Gogh never sold a painting while he was alive. Thankfully, I lived to see my art published, and you will too if you stay positive and resolute.”

— Sid Balman, author of the Seventh Flag Trilogy (second installment due out Aug. 3, 2021)

The Art of Not Giving Up

“It was November 2017. I had finally finished writing, editing, and polishing the manuscript for my debut novel, a manuscript that took me ten years to complete. I had done my research and had my list of agents to go. Fingers crossed, I plunged into the querying trenches.

At first, it was great. Most of my queries turned into full or partial manuscript requests. My hopes started to build even as the dreaded waiting process began. By mid-December, one by one the rejections started to come in. Everyone knows that querying is brutal, and one usually gets more rejections than requests for representation. Still, I was heartbroken.

One of the criticisms I kept hearing was that my book was too long for middle grade. Typically, the word count for middle grade novels is between 50,000-70,000 words while mine was 91,000. Yikes!

As hard as it seemed, I knew it was the right thing to do. During the last two months of my pregnancy in mid 2018, I cut down 23,000 words and rewrote large sections of the book. Once my baby arrived, I sent the manuscript back to my beta readers to see if the new revisions maintained the plot, pace, and character growth. I began querying again. Long story short, I signed with my publisher in September 2019 and my debut novel, Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, releases June 2021!

Perseverance is key when it comes to writing a novel, and sadly, rejections are a big part of being a writer and becoming an author. But in my experience, it is through these rejections, setbacks, and challenges that we find what it takes to make our manuscripts better, our writing skills stronger, and determination greater. So, hang in there and don’t give up!”

— Payal Doshi, author of Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (releasing June 1, 2021)

An Unexpected Save

As our family struggled with my mom’s Alzheimer’s, I wrote a children’s picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Granny Can’t Remember Me. I heard from agents and editors that they liked the story but already had a book on the topic published or one in the works. After hearing this form of rejection time and again, I decided to publish it myself, and I floundered through three separate illustrators, dealt with many minute questions I’d never conceived of before (font type, size, bleeds), and waded into promotion and marketing. I was extremely happy with the end result and happy also that this lovely story has a voice.

I also write cozy murder mysteries, and wrote my first Fog Ladies book a long, long time ago. When I pitched this one to agents and editors, I was told, ‘We love cozies, but there’s no market for them right now. We want noir and edgy, vampires and zombies and goth and unreliable narrators.’ Then the world turned edgy, and cozies were back in. After years of trying to get my cozy published, I had two small publishers vie for my manuscript.

However, I did not waste all those years. The mystery was a much better version of itself when it was published, after I listened to critiques from conferences, agents, and a developmental editor. I reworked the story and made some crucial changes that I would have regretted not having if the book had been published in its original form. One feisty character, eighty-year-old Enid Carmichael, the apartment building’s unfiltered busybody, steals her neighbors’ grande latte coupons, unknowingly discovers whodunnit, and winds up in the ICU. Originally, she died at the hands of the killer, but several agents advised against killing off a great character, so she lives on now to bother tenants in the future books. Without the years of rejection allowing me time to reshape and rethink, she would be dead.”

— Susan McCormick, author of The Antidote (releasing May 5, 2021) 

An Evolutionary Solution

“I knew I had a story to tell, but figuring out how to tell it took years. I tried it as a novel, but kept hitting walls. I wrote it as a play. Then as a memoir. Sixteen years later, on the third rewrite, each with a different point of view, I finally nailed it. There is something to say for having an obsessive gene.”
— Margo Krasne, author of What Would I Do Without You?: A Collection of Short Stories About Friendships

Keep On Playing

“As a young professional singer, I encountered the ups and downs of trying to get my foot in the door. I managed, despite the challenges, to make my way in this world and am now spreading my writers’ wings. I wrote a poem about my former life as a singer trying to make it in New York City. The following is a portion of that poem:

‘Persistence’

Audition after audition after audition circles round and round and round
like an old phonograph turntable playing the same song over again and again.
Will someone not lift the needle and get me off this merry go around and around?
Singing careers teeter totter up and down, up and down on the great seesaw of auditions.
One letter of rejection follows another letter of rejection following yet another until
one day a miracle appears in the form of black typeset words on a white sheet of paper.
“We are happy to inform you….”

The above segment from my poem is analogous to writing. With persistence and determination, we craft our works in hopes that we/they will receive validation. For me, life as an artist has been my journey. Any successful artist has had to deal with disappointment and rejection at some point. The following quote from Sister Mary Lauretta (1905-1995), a Wisconsin science teacher, sums up my belief as an artist: ‘To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.’”

— Christine Isley-Farmer, author of Finding My Yip

 

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!

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.

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!

 

10 books to check out if you love WandaVision

A couple of us on the Books Forward team are obsessed with WandaVision, and we put together a list of some books to check out if you also can’t stop watching! Most of these books are fairly dark, so keep that in mind if you plan to pick one up.

  1. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin and Peter Straub – An idyllic neighborhood hides a terrible secret. Sound familiar?
  2. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben – Maya catches a glimpse of her husband playing with her daughter on their nanny cam, but he had been murdered weeks ago. 
  3. When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole – This thriller about gentrification is imbued with dread and quickly turns into a horror story.
  4. Fledgling by Octavia Butler – A young girl has no memory of her past, but starts to realize she has inhuman and startling abilities.
  5. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – Jason is abducted and wakes up in a new, alternate version of his life. If you love WandaVision for the twists, this is the book for you.
  6. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – Big, brittle smiles cover up a lot of secrets in this seemingly perfect community filled with tight-lipped housewives.
  7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – On the surface, Lydia leads a perfect life, but when her body is found in a lake, her family must explore what she had been keeping inside.  
  8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A tough, smart heroine and a story that gets weirder and weirder as she digs deeper.
  9. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi – Vivek’s death at the beginning of the book leads to an exploration of grief, identity and family.
  10. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – Camille heads to stay with her family in the town where she grew up after a stay at a psychiatric facility, only to find that they have gotten more stifling, more secretive and more dangerous.