Graphic Novels and Comic Books: Not just for kids

a selection of comic books and graphic novelsI am absolutely a book snob and years ago I might have told you that I didn’t consider comic books or graphic novels “real” books, but guess what: I was wrong (imagine that)! People who are visual learners often connect better with this artistic format; it’s been shown that graphic novels and comics increase reading comprehension and inspire creativity. It can also help boost reading confidence in reluctant readers. 

Now to get technical: what’s the difference between the two? Graphic novels contain a complete narrative, whereas a comic book is part of a larger, serialized story. 

And there is something for everyone of every age. Some of the most rich and complete stories I’ve read have come from graphic novels.  I asked the Books Forward team what comics or graphic novels they’ve enjoyed, and added my recommendations at the bottom. Happy reading!

Jennifer Vance, Publicist 

The Netflix series Kingdom is based off the comic The Kingdom of the Gods by In-Wa Youn, (illustrated by Kyung-Il Yang), and after quickly bingeing the seasons available for the show, I knew I had to check out the source material. While the book definitely differs from the show, it’s still amazing. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and if you love horror and gore and action, you’ll love this. Oh, and spoiler alert: There’s a whole lotta zombies.

Angelle Barbarzon, Lead Publicist

American Elf by James Kochalka was my first introduction to autobiographical comics. For years, James Kochalka posted a daily comic on his website, typically one to four panels chronicling a snippet from his day like a diary entry. Some days, he shared completely mundane things like stargazing at night with his wife or his cat’s tendency to sleep on his pillow. But other days, he shared deeper glimpses into his life, like the day his first son was born. But that’s just life, right? A mix of ordinary and extraordinary. Sadly, after 14 years, the daily comics came to an end, but they were all compiled into books that you can buy and read over, and over, and over!

Blankets by Craig Thompson is one of those graphic novels that I recommend to people who think comics are limited to superheroes fighting crime or pun-filled newspaper strips. Everything about this book is beautiful — the writing, the illustrations, the stories, everything! Based on his own life, Craig Thompson intertwines stories of two young brothers growing up in snowy Wisconsin with a coming-of-age tale of love, loss and faith. There will always be a place for this book on my shelves!

Hannah Robertson, Publicist

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil has illustrations that are simple but striking, and its message is one I can get behind any day.

Everything about The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg is breathtaking. It made me think a lot about where we come from and where we’re going.

Jackie Karneth, Publicist 

As a fan of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s utopian/dystopian novel Herland and a lover of cheeky webcomics, Aminder Dhaliwal’s Woman World is the perfect mashup heaven made just for me. Have you ever imagined what the world would be like if men suddenly ceased to exist? (It’s okay, you can admit it). Well that’s the premise here, and you’ll get to dive right into the hilarious happenings of a diverse group of female characters as they each navigate life without men. 

Another webcomic-turned-book, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is the story of a young shapeshifter who suddenly becomes the sidekick of supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Nimona and Blackheart are on a mission to prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin isn’t really all that. And despite Blackheart’s tough exterior, he quickly warms up to Nimona as they begin wreaking havoc together. A funny, witty, and oh-so-smart story filled with magic, friendship, and lots of surprises, this is definitely a “I read this in one sitting” type of book.

Chelsea Apple, Content Creator

I really enjoy the online webcomic Lore Olympus. A version of the Hades and Persephone myth that mixes a modern retelling with a mythical reboot? Sign. Me. Up. The characters are well developed, the story is intriguing, and seriously look at this art

I also follow Let’s Play! When I first started this webcomic, I thought I knew where it was going: a nerdy (but clearly attractive) video game developer becomes next door neighbors with the hot video game reviewer who trashed her debut project. Perfect enemies-to-lovers territory, right? Turns out, I had no idea where this story was going, and I’m loving the fantastic character development, interesting relationships, and the surprising plot!  

Ellen Whitfield, Senior Publicist

My most recommended graphic novel is Check, Please! Ngozi Ukazu’s illustrations are a perfect fit for her story about an ice skater who got a hockey scholarship to a college in the midwest, and has to figure out how to navigate his new campus and coming out to his teammates. Oh and he’s a champion baker. You’ll fall in love immediately, and the good news is that volume 2 is even longer and cuter.

The first graphic novel I ever read (it was only last year!) was Kid Gloves, written and illustrated by Lucy Knisley. It covers her experience with fertility problems, conception, pregnancy and childbirth, and drops some serious knowledge along the way. 

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman took me right back to the uncertainties and hopes and worries and breathlessness of high school. Everyone deserves to be loved like Nick loves Charlie — the way they are together just makes me melt. 

I read Good Talk because of Lupita Reads, and was blown away by Mira Jacobs’s storytelling ability. Being a parent is hard enough, and the responsibilities that come with raising a Black or brown child in America are overwhelming. The author switches between stories from her early life to present day in this intimate memoir.

I have a tendency to look at first love through rose-colored glasses, but Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, reminded me that falling for someone as a teen can be as difficult as it is wonderful. It captures the highs and lows of that emotional time of life.

Some other graphic novels and comics on our TBR:

 

 

 

To Promote or Not to Promote: The Pros and Cons of Facebook Advertising

Authors are always doing what they can to get their books in front of more people. But the real goal should be to get your book seen by the most people in your target audience. Number of eyes doesn’t mean anything if they are not likely to turn into sales.

That’s where targeted Facebook ads come into play. Advertising on social media is an extremely effective strategy for promoting your book or building up your social media accounts. As always with promotion strategies, there are pros and cons to Facebook advertising.

The Pros

  1. Targeting a Specific Audience: Blanket advertising is not always the best strategy when trying to get more people to purchase your book. You want there to be a larger click through rate on your ad, which is more prone to happen if the audience seeing the ad is interested. By using the data on Facebook, you can target people based on their interests, gender, age, and location. You can always change these parameters as well, depending on how well an ad is performing.
  2. Number of Users: You can reach so many people on Facebook. There are currently 2.7 billion users on the platform, so even with targeting you are reaching a wider audience than you would on other platforms.
  3. Different Ad Options: There are multiple types of ads that you can run depending on your goal. The ads fall under three different categories: awareness, consideration, and conversion. You can choose what you’re wanting to accomplish (more traffic to a website, more page likes, more sales, more brand awareness, etc.) and Facebook will run an ad tailored to that goal.
  4. Comparison Opportunities: Facebook allows you to run multiple ads at a time, which allows you to monitor which ads are performing better than others. They allow you to set up an ad with an A/B Test which means the same ad runs with two different ad sets (different target demographics/psychographics) so you can see which audience is responding more. This allows an efficient way to monitor who you should be targeting and can save you money by only spending money on the ad that is giving you the most engagement.
  5. Easy to Change: Facebook ads are also easy to tweak if needed. You can go in and change the target audience at any time. You aren’t locked in to the ad set you originally create. Having the ability to change demographics as well as the image/copy at any time is helpful in making sure you are getting the best results possible.

The Cons

  1. Costs: While you can set up a Facebook ad with any size budget, the bigger the budget the better an ad will perform. This doesn’t mean that your $5/day ad won’t generate more engagement, but if you want substantial numbers, it could become expensive. Also, if your targeting is off, it can be a lot of cost for not enough return.
  2. Limitations to Facebook: While you are reaching a wide amount of people, it is only Facebook users that you are reaching and a lot of people who have accounts have started to move on to other, more progressive social platforms. This fact could lead to lower numbers of engagement on your ads. But again, a lower percentage of 2.7 billion, is still a pretty large number.
  3. Diminished Organic Views: Only a small percentage of your customers will stumble onto your post organically since the Facebook algorithm limits brands visibility, so to reach more people you may have to boost your posts.

Marketing your book can definitely be overwhelming, and understanding your options is key. It is important to take all of these things into consideration before creating an ad, however the pros usually outweigh the cons when it comes to advertising your book or your brand as an author on Facebook.

How to make the most of the 2020 SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show

Books Forward is so excited for the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show starting Sept. 21 — check out our exhibitor booth here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/books-forward/! This year’s trade show is going to look a little different from previous years: for the first time ever, SIBA and NAIBA have partnered up to host a virtual, five-day event. We can’t wait to join our favorite indie booksellers, publishers, and authors online for this one-of-a-kind experience — and we also know that new opportunities can create questions for our authors. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the trade show to help authors navigate this year’s especially unique event with ease!

What does the SIBA/NAIBA Trade Show look like?
Held Sept. 21-25, the trade show will consist of a series of Zoom events taking place across four different channels. It’s a joint event hosted between SIBA (the Southern Independent Booksellers Association) and NAIBA (the New Atlantic Booksellers Association), united under the name New Voices New Rooms. Booksellers will be eyeing new and upcoming book releases!

What does this year’s schedule look like?
You can find the trade show schedule here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/schedule/. It’s divided into four tracks: Education (panels, roundtables, and more for booksellers), Author Events, Publisher Events, and Networking. It’s interactive and searchable; you can add all events, or just individual events, to your personal calendar; you can subscribe to it; and you can easily share it on social media. You’ll also find all of the participating publishers tagged — just click on the publisher’s name to see all of the events that publisher is participating in.

This schedule is pretty extensive! How will I know what’s happening each day?
Not only is the schedule broken up by day, but the New Voices New Rooms blog will also have a rundown of each day’s events, and is a great hub for finding out info about the show: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/nvnr-news/. Their newsletter will also recap daily sessions and events, as will the SIBA and NAIBA newsletters, respectively.

How many people can attend the online trade show?
There is no attendance cap; there are more than 500 booksellers and other industry attendees registered right now.

Can I still arrange to be featured in an author event?
The Author Events schedule is full, but there are still some advertising options available to reach attendees via the email newsletter or trade show website, which is sure to have high traffic during that week! Find more info here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/sponsors/.

Do I have to register?
Anyone who is participating in the trade show (including exhibitors) or who wants to attend must register; you can do so here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/registration/. Registering gets you onto the list of people allowed into the Zoom rooms/events.

If my publisher/editor/representative got me scheduled to participate in a trade show author event, do I still have to register?
Anyone who is attending or participating in the trade show must be registered for the event; this is how you get on to the list of Zoom room attendees. However, it’s possible that SIBA/NAIBA registered you on behalf of your publisher/editor/representative; it’s best to check with your participating organization to make sure.

I am, or my publisher/representative is, participating in the trade show. How will ARCs/galleys/review copies of my book be available?
If an author is featured at an event, New Voices New Rooms will send a Google form to all session participants at the end of the event to incentivize people to sign up for copies; publishers will then receive a list with all the book requests. Exhibitors can also feature galley request forms on their pages in the Virtual Exhibitor Hall!

What is the Virtual Exhibitor Hall?
While we may miss the crowded and bustling exhibitor halls of previous years, New Voices New Rooms has created a really excellent Virtual Hall for Exhibitors, which you can peruse here: https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/virtual-exhibit-hall/. When you hover your cursor over each logo, the digital placard flips over to reveal a sentence or two about that exhibitor. Click on the logo to “enter” the exhibitor’s virtual booth, where you can learn more about their offerings and services, and even enter an online raffle! There’s also a searchable directory of exhibitors in the dropdown menu between the sponsor logos and exhibitor logos.

How do I know which booksellers are in attendance?
New Voices New Rooms has created a pretty awesome searchable list of all registered booksellers who will be in attendance — check it out here! https://newvoicesnewrooms.org/booksellers/

Will I be tagged on social media?
New Voices New Rooms is creating graphics and videos that can be shared on social media by publishers and exhibitors; each piece of content will include a list of participating authors’ social media handles so they can be easily tagged online. This is perfect for promoting and sharing specific authors and events!

“Help Me Help You!” Tips for your family and friends who want to help your writing career

So many authors are reluctant to ask their family, friends and assorted contacts for help when they are promoting their book, but I always tell them to think of it from the opposite perspective. Wouldn’t you want to support a friend or loved one who had a new book coming out?

The thing is, most people don’t know exactly how to show that support, and they just need a little nudge in the right direction. So we put together a handy guide you can pass along when someone asks, “How can I help?”

Dear friends and family, here’s how you can help the authors in your life:

  1. Preorder a copy of their book — and not just for yourselves, but for others. Everybody’s getting a copy for Christmas! This is the most tangible way to help. For those who don’t have the financial means to order several books, there are a lot of other things that can help.
  2. Talk about the book on social media. Include links to the author’s website so people can order copies for themselves. Follow the author on their social media pages, and share their posts as appropriate to help drum up excitement.
  3. Rate and review the book on all platforms possible. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before a book’s publication date, but Goodreads and other sites do. These ratings can be a deciding factor for whether someone buys the book or not. Seeing even just a handful of positive reviews can be a big incentive to check it out, so leaving a 5-star rating and review is an easy way to have a critical impact.
  4. Add the book to Goodreads lists to boost its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) power. When someone searches for books about specific topics — for example, “books about teenage witches” — Goodreads lists are often among the first results to pop up. By adding the book to several topical/thematic Goodreads lists and asking others to vote on it, you are making it more visible to its targeted readers.
  5. Suggest it as a book club pick to any groups you’re involved with who may enjoy it. The author may even be able to do a virtual Q&A with book clubs if that’s something you’d be interested in.
  6. Request that your local library carry the book. Check to see if the book is available at your library. If it’s not, check online to see if they have a form on their website where you can request that they carry the book. Many libraries have request forms specifically for this purpose (and if yours does not have an online form, a conversation with the librarian is a good place to start!). If the library chooses to carry the book, they will purchase a copy (another sale for the author!), and the book will be able to reach a new audience of readers who may not hear about it otherwise.
  7. Talk to your local booksellers and see if they know about the book. If not, give them an elevator pitch! Their recommendations are invaluable, so even putting the book on their radar can be helpful.
  8. And of course, spread the word! Word of mouth is still so important. Talk about the book to your friends, your coworkers, in your personal and professional circles, anywhere you can. Being an advocate for the author in your life is truly a gift — and you may help your other friends and connections discover a great new read!

Prepare for back to school with books

15 bookstagrammers to follow for children’s book recommendations, and 15 picture book recommendations

Whether the kids are heading back to school or learning from home, August always brings back fond memories of the smell of sharpened pencils, and a sense of new adventures and opportunities. One of the ways I learned best as a kid was through reading, so we’ve compiled a list of bookstagrammers who always have amazing new kids’ books to recommend! 

  1. Michelle (@the.book.report) is a mother of six who has great book recommendations for every age. She also shares fun, easy recipes to keep everyone fed and happy! 
  2. Megan (@ihaveabook4that) champions getting diverse books into schools, and is hosting an #augustkidlitchallenge encouraging people to share their favorite children’s books.
  3. Rosemary (@librarymombooks) is a former school librarian who curates fabulous lists that ensure you’ll be able to find a book your child will love. 
  4. Rosie (@diverse_kids_books) recommends books about people from all backgrounds and life experiences with the goal that every child will see themselves represented, and to spread inclusivity and kindness.
  5. Sarah (@picturebooksblogger) is a picture book expert. The photos of the book covers really pop in her feed–swipe to see more details from each book!
  6. Lauren (@happily.ever.elephants) shares books of course, but also quotes and lists that are fun and so helpful.
  7. Kelly (@deliahandtilly)  has a feed full of rainbows and smiles, and shares some amazing books and tips on home education.
  8. Charnaie (@hereweread) aims to help adults make the most out of their kids’ reading time, and promotes inclusive and beautiful books. 
  9. Shruthi (@thebookprivy) writes thoughtful captions that will inspire parents to talk with their kids about the books that they’re reading.
  10. Vera (@thetututeacher) is a kindergarten teacher who has tons of online resources for kids of all ages, and book recommendations to fit any need. 
  11. Nate (@mr_lyon_4th) led a Here and Queer educator series this summer to create space for LGBTQ+ storytelling, provide actionable steps for inclusion, and create space for queer storytelling. And of course, the book recs are top notch.
  12. Evie Sophia (@evieslearninglibrary) encourages literacy and love of reading by sharing creative activities and books for all different ages.
  13. Malorie (@rhetty.set.rea) has a colorful feed full of bright books that are sure to entertain kiddos.
  14. Lauren (@picturebookplaydate) manages to find the perfect background for each book she’s recommending to make them even more tempting! 
  15. Anna (@whatshouldireadtomykid) is a K-12 literacy specialist and has two young kids, which means her book recommendations come from experience!

And of course, I have LOTS of recommendations! Being a mom to a 3.5 year old means we are always on the lookout for fun new books. Here are some of our favorite picture books:

  1. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illustrated by Thomas Knight: No kids book has ever made me laugh as hard as this one. In this story, a little girl makes a persuasive argument to be able to sleep in her parents’ bed. 
  2. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Steve Lewis: An updated version of the  old-fashioned tale of the knight rescuing the princess.
  3. Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn: For anyone who has been told they can’t succeed because they’re too much or not enough.
  4. Because by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren: A cool way to teach kids how a small incident (a little girl’s uncle gets sick, so she gets to go to the symphony) can have long-term effects (she becomes a composer).
  5. Big Boys Cry by Jonty Howley: A gentle lesson dismantling down toxic masculinity.
  6. Windows by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale: Relying mostly on illustrations, this book offers a great view on exploring the worlds within our own neighborhoods.
  7. The Little Red Stroller by Joshua Furst and Katy Wu: A great story sharing many versions of what different families look like.
  8. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: Who hasn’t wanted to be a mermaid? Julián’s grandmother encourages him to embrace and celebrate his identity.
  9. Over There by Steve Pilcher: Beautiful illustrations from the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase tell the tale of a little shrew who wondered if he might find something better outside his comfort zone.
  10. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees: Everyone makes fun of Gerald’s dancing, but a little cricket teaches him to find his own rhythm and joy. 
  11. Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival: When Norman sprouts wings, he tries to keep them hidden, but keeping a huge secret weighs on him. 
  12. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth: The kids in a family each learn a small lesson from a panda who is well versed in Zen tales.
  13. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison: An empowering ode to a young Black girl’s hair, and the love her father has for her. 
  14. Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: A spunky little girl finds adventure with her trusty dog sidekick in their own backyard.

A Big Guy Took My Ball (or really any Elephant and Piggie story) by Mo Willems: A smart lesson about including people, even if they’re different from you — but they are all wonderful!

Tips for Virtual Author Events

Want to feel terrible about yourself? Plan an event at a bookstore for your book, show up to the store in your fancy writer’s outfit, and quickly realize that nobody is there to see you except for the bookstore owner and a bored staff member the owner forces to watch your reading.

This has happened to every writer I know and, while it makes for a ruefully amusing story years later in your career, these lackluster events are terribly inconvenient for yourself and the bookstore – particularly if the store ordered copies of your book, and is dedicating an evening to you in place of someone who would have drawn a better crowd.

Of course, now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, writers need ways to promote their books outside of in-person events. For years, I’ve run a reading series in D.C. called “Noir at the Bar,” an event where 8-9 crime fiction writers take turns reading stories at a bar (for more about the series, including its national origins, check out this article in CrimeReads). I was recently inspired by my friend Alex Segura, who runs the Queens NY Noirs at the Bar, to move my series online and re-name it. It’s now called “D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires,” and we’ve had wonderful success since it debuted in April – media coverage, attendance in the hundreds, and the series has garnered a devoted following.

In the process, I’ve learned some important thing about putting together a virtual event:

Make It Bigger Than You

You might be tempted, particularly if you’re launching a new book this year, to have an event solely focused on your work. I get that. And it makes sense, particularly if you already have a following. If you don’t, then make sure you have a “draw” for your event. For example, ask a better-known author to join you in conversation. Or, if your book has a natural fit with an organization, reach out to them and ask if they have a virtual series you can be part of (you should already know this, to be honest, and really should be asking if you can take part in an existing series). Make sure there’s a reason people will tune in…people outside of your own circle of fans, friends, and family. 

Organizations and event planners have been scrambling these past few months for ways to keep their membership engaged. Make your event an enticing fit for them, and they’ll be excited to include and promote you.

Know the Software

Likely, everyone reading this has used Zoom for online meetings and gatherings, and it’s a terrific platform. But it’s not the only one. For “D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires,” I use Crowdcast, a site particularly suited for readings where one presenter after another takes the stage. And even though, like Zoom, the site is fairly intuitive, I still take pains to make sure that every writer’s microphone and web cam are working prior to an event.

There are always going to be glitches. Make sure you have a backup plan, and expect to be nimble. Viewers expect glitches, but there is a definite shortage of patience if these problems persist. It’s much easier, after all, to click off a site than it is to walk out of a reading.

Dare to Flair

There’s nothing more boring than an author reading their work. Most writers are famously introverted and not exactly gifted presenters. The last thing anyone wants is to go to a reading where someone is staring down at a book and muttering for an hour. BORING.

Add something fun to your event. For this D.C. series, I have musical interludes where a local jazz star (the fantastic Sara Jones) sings noir-themed songs. And a local mixologist, Chantal Tseng, puts together a custom cocktail for each event (based off one of the books) and gives a quick demonstration of how to make it. Sara and Chantal have become the stars of the series, and an added element viewers greatly look forward to. And both women have suffered the sudden halt of their livelihoods – cancelled live events and closed bars. It’s nice to do something where they have the chance to resume their craft.

Local Media Wants to Know

I mentioned that event organizers have been scrambling for content to share with their members; the same is true with your local media, especially reporters who cover local events. Nothing is happening anywhere and, if you have an interesting angle for your event, you have a wonderful chance to get some attention for it. The D.C. Virtual N@B series has received coverage from DCist, the Washington Post, and NPR – media that, traditionally, had been impossible for me to attract to the in-person events.

Work with a Bookstore

Even in good times, independent bookstores have it tough, and the current economy is leveling local businesses. Every event in my reading series is in support of a local DC/MD/VA bookstore, and the bookstores have responded warmly to this effort, with promotions and dedicated event pages. My region, in particular, is fortunate to have a strong bookstore presence, one that is enthusiastically supportive of its local writers, and this is an opportunity to do something for them.

And it doesn’t hurt, of course, for these local bookstores to be familiar with your name, and to consider you an instrumental part of the community.

You’re getting something out of this, to be sure, but you’re doing something for others at the same time. You’re bringing a sense of distraction and escape to people who desperately need it. Never forget that. It’ll give your event a sense of purpose and determination viewers will recognize and appreciate.

To learn more about D.C.’s Virtual Noir for Indie Bookstoires series, visit https://eaymarwrites.com/noirbar/. To learn more about E.A. Aymar and his upcoming novel, They’re Gone, written under his pseudonym E.A. Barres, visit https://eaymarwrites.com/novels/theyre-gone/.

What to expect leading up to your book launch

The day a book launches is one of the most exciting of an author’s career, but the weeks leading up to it can be nerve-wracking. Knowing what to expect can help give you a sense of calm as you move into “launch month.”

I like to describe the publicity leading up to your publication date like a snowball: it starts out rather small and moves slowly, but as you get closer, momentum and size build up.

First, many readers prefer to wait until launch day or launch week to cross-post reviews (Amazon actually doesn’t allow reviews to post before then, although other sites do). This burst of reviews in a short period of time can be beneficial; it’s similar to advertising, and the sudden, frequent exposure to the book’s cover and title can lead to more orders!

Second, local media publications in your area are more likely to post a review or blurb about the book near the launch date, in order to create a more timely hook for their newscycle.

So how can you help build the momentum?

Check in with your network of family and friends around this time to ask them to help spread the word about your book. They can do this through Goodreads reviews, social media outreach, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. Many of your supporters will want to help you during this time, but they might need you to tell them how.

Post regularly on social media. Prior to launch, you may have been posting about your book on social media less frequently in order to not overwhelm your followers. However, the weeks leading up to your launch is the time to really use those platforms to display your excitement and share this part of your journey! You should also use social media to share any reviews, and to thank the people who wrote them.

Make sure your website is fully updated and running smoothly. As more people hear about your book, your website is likely to have more visits. Make sure buy links (including IndieBound) are displayed prominently to give you the best chance at getting those orders! If you have a reader newsletter, make sure that you have a system in place to capture email addresses of anyone who wants to subscribe.

Be savvy about making your book launch event a success. Encourage your contacts in the area to come, and to spread the word about the event to their networks as well. Stores appreciate when events gather a crowd, and it gives you an opportunity to spread your message beyond your circle. Ask the store what format usually works best for them, whether it’s a short reading, a Q&A, a conversation, etc.

Bring bookmarks and extra pens for signing, and a notepad to take down any email addresses for contacts you may make. Plus some water and mints–you’ll be doing a lot of talking!

In the wake of COVID-19, many stores are offering virtual events instead of in-person events, which is a great option to reach a wider audience beyond where you can travel! Even if an event is virtual, we still recommend being strategic about when, where, and with whom you set up events: you want to make sure you can draw an audience, so that it is a good investment for you and the bookstore.

If the bookstore doesn’t set up a Facebook event for your launch, you should set one up yourself! It’s a great way to let a wide audience know about your launch, and you can include a lot of information in one place.

And most of all, remember to enjoy yourself! This is a special time, and at the end of the day, nothing can diminish your hard work, creativity, and the amazing accomplishment of releasing your own book!

Literary PR Company Books Forward Makes Three New Hires

Company celebrates 20-year anniversary with staff expansion & new services 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Literary publicity company Books Forward (part of the veteran JKS Communications brand) has hired three new staff members for its growing team.

Rhodes Murphy has joined the Books Forward team as a publicist. He holds both undergraduate and Master’s degrees in English Literature, from Loyola University and Tulane University respectively. He has written for both national and local publications, including Slate and Document Journal, with a particular focus on covering the LGBTQ community. Like his Books Forward colleagues, Murphy is driven by a passion to help marginalized voices be heard.

Erica Martin has joined Books Forward as office administrator. Martin brings a wealth of energy and creativity to the team in her role, where she coordinates special projects and oversees creative book mailings to media and industry influencers. Her background managing teams and leading client and customer communications in property management and political campaigns, coupled with her love of literature, have proven essential to supporting the Books Forward team and brand.

Rachel Hutchings has joined Books Forward as a digital marketing strategist after two semesters of interning with the company. Hutchings graduated from Belmont University with a major in Publishing and a minor in Psych. She previously worked on the Belmont Story Review, and interned with independent publishing company American Blackguard Inc. Hutchings now helps Books Forward clients cultivate and establish their digital voice, working hand-in-hand with authors to ensure authenticity in their online presence. She is constantly finding innovative ways to promote author brands and their books.

Books Forward celebrates 20 years of innovative literary promotion in 2020 with a new name, new team members with publishing and media expertise, and new expanded services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the forward-thinking publicity team launched a Virtual Learning Author Program to provide free at-home education, as well as the #BooksForwardHelpline to help readers support indie bookstores and libraries, troubleshoot e-readers, and connect with great new book recommendations.

About Books Forward: Books Forward is an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, the company helps authors find success and connect with readers. Interested in what’s possible for your book sales and building readership? Check out the Books Forward author services, submit a query form with your individual author brand goals, and get a customized publicity campaign.

What can authors do to make the most of their time stuck at home?

We at Books Forward know how important this time is for our authors and readers alike. People are going back to basics and reading more than ever (let’s take that good news where we can!).  Sitting at home, readers are wondering “What can I read today?” while Authors are wondering “How can these readers get a copy of my book?” We are here to be that clotheslines between the two! Grab your pegs and pulley that fresh book into their (hopefully) clean hands with a few of these easy tips!

Audience 

Start with your reader –  Who  are they?! And find them! 

  1. Who is your audience? What do they look like? What stores do they shop at? How old are they? Are they married, single,  young, old…  You get the point! Narrow down that audience as best as you can and go after that using hashtags and similar accounts.
  2. Comparable authors – This is a trick that can help you not only find your audience, but find out what works best for that author, which in turn could work well for you! What content are they posting? Where do they get the most engagement? Follow some of their audience and engage. 

Photos

We live in a very visual society – which *err* doesn’t really help us wordsmiths –  but if a visual photo is going to give them incentive to read your caption or better yet your book then we have to think about the immediate bait. With some extra free time at home, why not try to snap a few good photos for content? If a photo is going to get your readers hooked, then let’s reel them in.

Tips for photos:

  • Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! In this day and age, most smart phones carry a quality camera. However, to get the best quality of the camera, you need to take pictures in natural lighting. Move your camera around different angles to see how the light affects your photo. Shoot outside if that helps (*Insiders Tip*  A photographer’s favorite day, is overcast – not too bright and not  too gloomy)
  • Editing Apps: You can download free editing apps such as ColorStory, Afterlight and VSCO but to avoid being overly complicated, most phones have an editing option right in the photo. 
  • Editing Tips:
    • Lightning: Don’t brighten it too much, but adding a little extra can make your photo look extra professional!
    • Crop: Don’t be shy to take a photo as is and use the crop tool to clean it up!
  • Content: Not every photo has to be a perfect photo, people want to see the real you so feel free to share a recipe here and there, your writing setup, your morning coffee routine,, your family – anything that may pull readers in to who you are and how you write. Inspire them!

Easy Photo Examples:

1- Flat Lay: Greenery, or flowers can help bring color to your photo! Place your book on a stool, a chair or table – add greenery around it and voila!

2- Add in textures and colors that you have lying around the house! Where’s your reading spot? Maybe your writing desk? A fun angle: Hold out your book  below using one hand, and snapping the photo with your other:)

3- Use different covers and mediums of how you can listen or read your book!

4- Furry Friends are welcome! People love pets – sneak in those hashtags of your dog’s breed and find new followers that love books &  pets too!

5- Bookstacks – Share with your readers, what you’re reading or what inspires you! Sharing your name and associating with other authors always gives good perception. Tag them and see if they repost it!

6- Don’t be too shy to get in the shot! Set up a timer or have a friend/family member to take a picture of you writing or reading. Get that book plug in there too  by having it somewhere in the frame;)!

Instagram LIVE

This is a great new tool for creatives. Although, it may seem terrifying to go live – It’s a great way to  connect! *just remember to turn on AND off the camera*

Here are a few ways you can use this tool:

1- Pair up with another author! They can be in the Books Forward family or a fellow author you know. Schedule a time, share it with your fans on both socials and choose to ask each  other questions about the writing process, or any chapters in your book etc. You  can have a theme or it can just be a quick happy hour chat!

2- The new donation button – This tool is a great way to get readers to buy  your book on the spot. OR, you  can use this tool to pick a charity and raise money during your Live. Team up and Tag!

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-adds-live-donations-feature-for-fundraising-via-instagram-live/576951/ 

Facebook LIVE

Again, another great tool to reach out to people on that platform! You can do a  reading hour, where you read and discuss a section of your book, throw a launch party, cook your favorite meal- anything that helps create content, tags other accounts and promotes your book at the same time is a good recipe!

Example:

1 –  Authors, David & Julie Bulitt LIVE making their favorite drinks in the kitchen!

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/ 

2- Author Katie Burke, jumped on a Zoom call with local bookshop The Booksmith and a few kids from her book “Urban Playground;  What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco.”

https://www.facebook.com/172783613413991/videos/235977604179931/  

REVIEWS

Don’t be shy to reach out to  Instagram, Facebook or any book reviewers and offer a copy of your book in exchange for a post! Now, on Amazon you can send an ebook as a gift, super easy and practical for social distancing! 

All in all, social media is a great tool but you have to be patient with it. The more time you spend engaging, creating content and connecting with people you will start to see your numbers grow – Remember, consistency is key! It’s a clothesline, where you need to hang each item up one by one –  give it time. Unfortunately, social media is not an automatic dryer. *welp*

Amplify Your Book: The Value of Radio for Authors

As an author, your first radio interview can feel daunting, exciting — maybe even frustrating if you worry the whole thing will be in vain. Radio’s dead, right? Or at least dying? Will it really help to promote my book? Like all media that isn’t deemed “social,” radio has been given a bad rap in the past few years. But just as print books haven’t keeled over at the sight of ebooks and audiobooks, radio seems to have carved out an essential place in our lives.

Debunking the Myth of “Drive Time” as Radio Royalty

If you’re like me, when you think of a time and place for radio listening, you think of your morning or afternoon commute. This is what’s known as “drive time” radio, which typically encompasses the hours of 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m.

Many authors believe that drive time is the only time in which radio effectively reaches a large audience of potential readers. If you’re on air during any other time slot, you might as well not be on air at all. In fact, a January 2019 study from Advertiser Perceptions which surveyed 301 marketers and other agency professionals determined that advertisers feel the same way: advertisers believe that more than half of all AM/FM radio listening happens during morning and afternoon commutes. (Source: Advertiser Perceptions as cited in Westwood One).

Yet the reality of radio listening proves quite different. Nielsen Audio reveals that morning and afternoon drive times each comprise 21% of radio listening, which, while strong, actually ranks second to midday listening. Twenty-six percent of listening occurs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Furthermore, this study reveals that, while advertising professionals assume that only 13% of radio listening happens during the weekend, the reality cited by Nielsen is 21%—the same percentage of listening held by one of the coveted drive times!

For a more thorough outline of the mythical superiority of drive time radio, check out this article from Pierre Bouvard, CIO at Cumulus/Westwood One.

Radio-Podcasting Crossover

When it comes to the potential reach of a radio interview, there is another factor worth considering. Many radio programs also publish their segments online via their website or a podcasting platform such as BlogTalkRadio, Spreaker, Buzzsprout, or Podbean. This creates a web link (or multiple links) of your interview that can be shared on social media, creating digital impressions and meeting more potential readers.

In addition to reaching an extended audience, podcast links also contribute to author branding. These links can be published on the media page of your author website where booksellers, librarians and media professionals can check up on your credentials. 

Relationship-Building with Hosts

Another important aspect of radio is the chance to make an impression on a host or producer that develops into a mutually-beneficial partnership. It’s not uncommon for a radio interview to lead to more coverage down the road, whether it’s a “part two” to your conversation that will be recorded next week or a follow-up interview set to take place when you release your next book.

Remember that radio is beneficial to you beyond the here and now. With SEO-serving web links and the opportunity to build your promotional network, radio can be an investment in your long-term branding.

Becoming Fluent in Your Own Book

At this point, I hope you see why radio is a valuable addition to your plan for book publicity! But in case you need one more reason to jump on the bandwagon: radio will also help you become fluent in your book. 

Writing is one remarkable skill that you have. Yet verbally communicating what you’ve written about in a way that is concise, relatable and entertaining is another skill altogether. Radio interviews operate as the perfect testing ground for you to share your elevator pitch (without seeming rehearsed!) and to answer some questions you may not have prepared for in a fairly low-stakes environment. These interviews will help you become fluent in your book so you can shine during future TV interviews, bookstore events, Q&As with book clubs, and networking events.

Radio interviews can be an extraordinary tool for authors—no matter the time of day! If presented to you, I would recommend seizing the opportunity to amplify your book, gain credibility, and make a lasting impression.