Tips to consider when setting up bookstore events

Some authors don’t look forward to events – too many people, too much talking about themselves and their work. While others can’t wait for their launch party – it’s a chance to visit with all the people in their circle and meet potential new readers!

Regardless of what kind of author you are, events can be a great way to celebrate your book and all of the years of hard work you and a whole slew of other people put into it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up author events at bookstores.

Business first

While most bookstores love to host events, they are ultimately a business. Staffing an event, whether virtual or in-person, takes hard work and money, so try not to be offended if they aren’t able to work you into the schedule.

Bringing an audience

The event coordinator may ask you if you have a network of family and friends in the area who are able to attend. This is for your benefit, as well as theirs. They (understandably) want to sell books, but more than that, they want your event to be a success for you! Having an event and expecting the bookstore to provide the audience won’t get you too far.

Don’t forget to promote your event on social media, and feel free to ask the bookstore if they do this as well. You can ask friends and family to share your posts to increase your chances of having more people show up, as well.

That being said, if you do host an event and only a few people show up, don’t despair. This gives you an opportunity to connect with readers in a more personal way that you’ll likely remember for a long time.

Inviting other authors

Partnering with other authors can be a great idea. This can cut down on nerves because the focus isn’t entirely on you, and an “in conversation event” is generally a more attractive prospect for bookstores. You can even think outside the “author” box, especially if you write nonfiction – an expert in the field that you are writing about could make for fascinating back and forth. Plus, the other speaker is likely to draw even more people to the event!

Multiple events

Be cautious about setting up several events in the same area: Will you be able to draw a good-sized crowd to both events? If you do feel like you can pull it off, having a different topic discussed at each event is a good idea. That way you don’t feel like you’re giving a speech but rather engaging in a topic with that audience.

Above all, try to enjoy this part of your author journey – it’s something that not all authors get to do, and events can be something that both you and readers will remember for years!

For more tips on different kinds of events to consider, check out this blog post: https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/tips-for-author-events.

Books Forward June 2022 Newsletter

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

Read the June 2022 newsletter here!

Should I enter my book in awards contests?

If you’re marketing your own book, you may be focused on getting reviews, booking events, and building a social media following. But have you considered entering literary contests as well? In addition to providing credibility for you and your book, winning a contest can also score you a monetary prize or an opportunity to network with other authors and book industry professionals.

And, because of the wide range of literary awards available, there’s a good match for nearly every book!

Keep reading for tips on how to build an award strategy that works for you, and how to make the most of publicity surrounding a win.

How to be strategic when applying for awards

Make note of your budget.

While many awards are free to submit to, some do charge an entry fee, typically around $75. Determining in advance how much money you’re willing to spend on awards will help you narrow your options later on.

Do your research.

First, look for contests that have a solid reputation and line up with your unique audience and genre. When you’ve found a contest that seems like a match, dig a little deeper. Search what books have won in your category in the past. Do they seem on par with your book? Look up the judges for your category. What’s their realm of expertise? Do their interests overlap with your book’s themes?

As a general rule, always keep your eyes open for possible scams. Some awards don’t have authors’ best interests in mind. If you have a hard time finding basic information about the award’s history, judges and guidelines, that’s a big red flag. Similarly, if the entry fee is high while the prize pot is low, that may be cause for concern.

Think outside the box.

Does your book have unique cover art or interior design elements? There’s an award for that. Have an audiobook? There’s an award for that, too.

You should also look for awards that are specific to authors in your city, state or region. Local awards receive fewer entries than national awards, which will give you a better chance of taking home the gold!

Pay attention to guidelines.

Since guidelines tend to vary greatly from contest to contest, it’s crucial that you read the fine print. I know, I know. That can be tedious. But most awards won’t offer a refund for an incomplete or incorrect submission, so do it for your wallet’s sake.

A few things to make note of when scanning guidelines:

  • Can a submission come directly from an author? Or solely a publisher/publicist?
  • Does the contest accept ebook or physical mailings? Or both?
  • If physical copies are required, how many are needed? And, will you need to include any printed materials in the package as well (e.g., receipt, copy of entry form)?
  • Are you able to submit the same book in multiple categories? If so, is an extra fee or book mailing required?
  • Are ARC submissions allowed? Or will they only accept final copies?
  • How long is the submission period and when is the deadline?
  • Are you eligible for more than one year? Some awards have a 2+ year eligibility period. So if you happen to miss the deadline for your publication year, check to see if you’ll be eligible for the following year as well.

What should I do after an award win?

If there’s an in-person award ceremony, try to attend! These events are a great way to network with other authors and book industry professionals.

I would also recommend you:

  • Add any wins that you get to your website, email signature, and Amazon book listing
  • Share an announcement on social media and congratulate other winners/finalists
  • Order award stickers for the cover of your book (if available)
  • Update your resume for potential events and speaking gigs to reflect your accolades
  • Celebrate being an award-winning author!

Not sure where to start?

As you know, awards offer credibility, and solidifying your position as an award-winning author can benefit you for years to come!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few excellent literary contests for indie authors. Best of luck!

Foreword INDIES
https://www.forewordreviews.com/awards/

Kirkus Prize
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Next Generation Indie Book Awards
https://indiebookawards.com/

IndieReader Discovery Awards
https://indiereader.com/the-discovery-awards/

BookLife Prize (from Publishers Weekly)
https://booklife.com/about-us/the-booklife-prize.html

Independent Publisher Book Awards (The IPPYs)
https://www.ippyawards.com/

IBPA’s Ben Franklin Awards
https://www.ibpabenjaminfranklinaward.com/

How to decide which social media platform is for you

Social media is one of the most effective ways to market your products or services. I know that when I find out about a new author, actor, restaurant, boutique, etc., the first thing I do is search for them on social media. Even when using Google, the first links that pop up are always the main social media sites, as long as the person I am searching for has a presence there.

There are many reasons why some platforms may make more sense for you than others, but with all the tips and tricks we have below, keep in mind that none of this is black and white. The tips below are just based on what we’ve seen authors have success with in the past, and on demographics for each social media platform!

What should I focus on when deciding which platform to use?

When deciding which social media platform to focus on, think about your audience. What is the age demographic you are trying to target? That should be the first indicator on where to get started. Also, don’t get overwhelmed by all of the options below! It is much better to consistently create good quality content for one platform, going directly to your ideal audience, rather than creating average content spread out across five different platforms reaching wide ranges of people every once in a while. You can slowly work up to more platforms once you figure out the ideal place to start for your book and brand!

What are the benefits and target audiences for each platform?

Facebook

Facebook is the largest social media site, with 2.9 billion people having a Facebook account. It has a reputation of being for older generations, but based on recent statistics, 26.4% of the platform’s user base is actually made up of millennials ages 25-34. However, 36% of the platform’s users are 45 or older.

The Facebook algorithm is designed to focus on starting discussions, whether among friends and family members on a personal profile, or among you and your audience members on a Facebook page. That means your posts should have questions in them to spark conversations! For example, mystery books with shocking twists make for great discussion pieces and would do well on Facebook.

However, there are so many ways you can make your genre work on Facebook. You just need to be creative with content ideas! Your post could also be as simple as a picture of the current book you are reading and a cup of coffee. In the caption, you can pose the question: “Do you prefer coffee or tea / Have you read this book?” etc. Make it a conversation! Facebook is a good place to share links to blog posts as well, if you have a blog!

TikTok

TikTok was created in 2016 and has 1 billion users – it is one of the fastest growing apps in the world, and has more daily visitors than Google and Facebook. And if you haven’t heard of it yet, #BookTok is taking the “book world” by storm, so it’s probably time to hop on the bandwagon!

The target audience for TikTok is ages 16-24, with 60% of the users being under 25. However, keep in mind that YA and/or fantasy authors will absolutely perform the best on TikTok because those are the most popular genres on BookTok. But there are so many niches on TikTok, and BookTok specifically, that you can most likely find a world for your book on there somewhere, even if you don’t write YA or Fantasy.

Also keep in mind that TikTok is known for videos focusing around humor, so you’ll be spending a lot of time making videos to go with funny, trending sounds, and showing your face a good bit! It’s definitely an app you can have fun with, but wouldn’t be ideal if you don’t have time to regularly film videos and search the app for ideas or relatable content to make your own.

Instagram

Instagram has 2 billion users, and is one of the most visual platforms. It focuses on showcasing items or services through videos and images. #Bookstagram is a huge part of the “book world,” where your book could potentially do really well if you market it correctly!

60% of Instagram’s users are ages 18-34, so the majority are either Gen Z or Millennials. That means that a wide range of genres can do well on Instagram, and what really matters is making sure your content looks really nice. Instagram has sort of become a version of Pinterest, where the ideal Instagram feed would be very aesthetically pleasing. For example, romance books usually have fun, adorable covers and do well on Instagram.

For your profile as an author, any content that focuses on showing off your book, images of yourself, your writing desk, your favorite coffee shop, videos of you doing some of your hobbies, graphics shouting out any upcoming events and interviews, would all do well on the app.

Another thing to consider is that Instagram and TikTok are two platforms that can go hand in hand pretty well. If you’re making TikTok videos, you can easily reshare them onto Instagram as reels to maximize the visibility of your videos.

Twitter

Twitter has 436 million users, and most of Twitter’s content focuses on trending news, entertainment and politics. 38.5% of Twitter users are ages 25-34, and 21% are ages 25-49.
With each Twitter post or “Tweet”, you are only able to type a maximum of 280 characters, so each tweet is very concise! Tweets that have an image or link with them also perform better than just text.

You shouldn’t only post about your book – posting about current events and entertainment you are enjoying, such as other books you are reading or TV shows that you are watching is beneficial to reach a wider audience. A great way to join the conversation is to talk about trending topics and relate it back to your book when and if you can! There are also popular hashtags associated with author and writer life on Twitter that you can use – try tagging all of your relevant content with #AuthorCommunity and #WritingCommunity.

Other platforms include LinkedIn, which is great for the business authors out there, Youtube, which focuses on long form videos, and Pinterest, which I mentioned above. Social media is definitely an investment of your time, but we do find that it pays off in the long run. And most of all, remember to have fun with it!

Books Forward May 2022 Newsletter

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

Read the May 2022 newsletter here!

So you got a book review — now what?

Ah, the coveted book review. Every author wants them, and everyone in the industry talks about how important they are.

But have you ever stopped to think about why that might be and how exactly you can use a review to benefit your book and author brand?

First thing’s first, let’s talk about ways you can secure book reviews:

  • Be sure you are ready to start soliciting reviews. ARCs are perfectly fine, but create these after the copy editing and proofread process.
  • Consider your goal of why you want reviews and how you plan to utilize them, and this will help you decide between consumer and professional reviews (a mix of reader buzz and premiere publications is best!)
  • If you’re a new publisher, start a blurb program with authors you have published. If you’re an author, reach out personally to fellow authors on similar publishing journeys who write in your genre.
  • Reach out to authors of comparable books, as well as the reviewers, influencers and media outlets that have covered them.
  • Submit the book for free and/or paid review programs with industry publications (Foreword, BookLife, BookPage, Kirkus, School Library Journal, etc.)
  • Consider other options with media if the book is not accepted for review (reading list, excerpt, guest article from the author, etc.)
  • List the book on NetGalley and Edelweiss.
  • Coordinate a Goodreads giveaway, as well as a giveaway with LibraryThing.
  • Think outside the box: Does the author have any bookseller or librarian supporters who may provide a blurb?
  • Pull reader reviews from retail listings.
  • Follow submission guidelines closely: Be mindful of deadlines, editorial calendars and specific information requested – whether for a trade publication or book blogger.

Now that you’ve built up reviews, blurbs and other accolades, what in the world do you do with them? There are plenty of ways you can maximize the impact of your reviews:

  • Add the most compelling review quotes and premiere endorsements to the book’s front and/or back cover, and use additional quotes on an inside praise page.
  • Also highlight the catchiest and most compelling quotes at the start of the book description on online retail pages, as well as others in the Editorial Reviews section on Amazon and metadata with Ingram to help populate things like the Overview section on Barnes & Noble.
  • Add reviews to the press kit and any other marketing materials.
  • Mention the earliest reviews and blurbs garnered when reaching out to secure other potential reviews.
  • Include quotes on NetGalley and Edelweiss listings.
  • Have the author add reviews and other media coverage to their author website.
  • Use them in advertising copy.

These effective book marketing tactics will help you take your book to the next level!

Book marketing: What it is, and why it is never done

When authors write a book, what is the goal? To sell copies, to create a reader base, to retire from their day job and become full time writers – career goals can vary, but the answer to finding long-term success as an author remains the same: market your book.

A lot of the time, authors think writing the book is enough. It is, of course, a crucial part of being a successful writer, but writing a book and launching it into the world isn’t enough to get the book in front of its target audience to sell copies.

I am not discrediting all the work that goes into getting your book published, whether self publishing, traditionally publishing, or indie publishing. It is a long, tedious, process that takes a lot of work and good writing.

However, not marketing your book is like tripping at the finish line, and you’ll be doing yourself and your book a huge disservice without marketing!

So, what is book marketing?

The point of book marketing is to create awareness among booksellers and consumers for a specific book. The long-term goal of marketing is to generate book sales, but how do we get there?

When looking at famous authors with strong readerships, what do they all have in common?
They follow well-researched marketing strategies that help get their book to the ideal audience. Having a well-written book is important, but a book’s success is also dependent on making sure the right people are reading it.

First, identify your genre and target audience.

An important pillar to being a great writer is also being a reader. If you want to write thriller books, but never read that genre, how will you know what your fanbase is interested in reading? How will you know what book is missing from the millions? It is important to know the nuances of your genre, as well as the other authors who write what you write.

Along with identifying your genre comes identifying your target audience. If you write thrillers, go see who authors in your genre are following and who follows them on social media. That is a great way to start finding your audience members and engaging with them!

Build relationships with authors and readers.

Once you’ve established your niche in the world of books and readers, start interacting with the people who appreciate what you appreciate! Message the authors you followed on social media, and start networking with them. Consider collaborating with authors. This could be as simple as a social media post about them and their book, or a joint book giveaway.

A 2017 study from Digital Book World said that 95 percent of books were sold by word of mouth. Readers talk to other readers! There are so many books I would have never known about if I didn’t hear about them on Bookstagram or Booktok. If you want to be part of the conversation, interact with your readers. Send select readers with large engagements a copy of your book in exchange for an honest review or post about your book. This is a great way to start garnering attention for your book, as well as a loyal fanbase!

Get active on social media.

Trust me, I know social media can seem like a daunting place. It’s one of the biggest concerns and questions I get from the authors I work with.

There are so many directions you can go with social media, but if the idea of getting started is overwhelming you, start small. Start with the platform that feels easiest to you, whether that’s Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter!

The idea is to make sure readers can find you, see who you are and what you write, and to stay updated on your books! It’s also the perfect place to find readers and authors to interact with.

Again, if we’re starting small, there’s no need to come out the gate posting 3 times a day. Start with two posts a week, and plan them out ahead of time. Sit down one day of the week for a few hours, plan two posts, schedule them out, follow new accounts, engage with users, and be done for the week. As you get more comfortable with it, you can add in more posts, more engagement, and more platforms!

Run Facebook ads.

There are so many strategies just through Facebook advertising you can get started with, but again, it makes sense to just start small!

If you’re new to social media, specifically to Facebook and/or Instagram, you can run Facebook Page Like ads. This is a great way to gain more followers on your social media platforms. When you create a Facebook ad, as long as your Instagram is linked to your Facebook, the ads will also go to your account on Instagram.

You can also run Sales ads, which will redirect users to your book on your website, Bookshop, Amazon, anywhere you choose! People will be able to see your ad, interact with it, and immediately buy your book.

Utilize Amazon author central.

Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world, and has completely changed nearly everything about the way we market and publish books. Having an Amazon Author Central account is one of the most important things you can do for yourself as an author.

There are multiple ways to utilize it, and the most important is to optimize your author page. Make sure you have an updated profile picture, bio, social media and website links, and that all of your books can be found under your author page.

You can also update your book’s categories on Amazon. This means you can change the categories your book falls in. For example, if you write thriller books and your book is in the thriller category, that’s great. But that category is so broad and encompasses every single thriller book on Amazon, so being more niche benefits the book. For example: thriller books with women sleuth leads.

The benefit of having niche categories is that it gives your book a better chance of hitting number one in that category on Amazon, which is another great marketing tool you can use if you do hit number one, or even if you hit the top 100 list in a category.

Run Amazon ads.

Amazon ads are another useful strategy to get your book out there. Advertising on Amazon is done through keyword targeting, using keywords that you personally choose. For example, again if you write thriller books, you can use “thriller books” as a keyword, and your book will pop up as a sponsored option when people search for thriller books on Amazon. This is a broad category, so it makes sense to be quite niche when it comes to choosing your keywords as well.

Amazon lets you update and trade out keywords as much as you need to until you find the ones that are targeting the right audience to sell your book.

Make videos!

Making videos is a fun marketing strategy that is blowing up in 2022. This doesn’t mean you have to be active on TikTok, posting videos every day, but we cannot deny the huge reader base that interacts with video content. Videos are a huge way to get engagement, and you can also post them on any social media platforms, not just TikTok.

There are also a lot of authors out there who have book trailers, but in today’s day in age, it seems to make more sense to make a personalized video. That can be anything from behind the scenes of your writing process, a book aesthetic video, a video of you unboxing your books, a tour of your writing desk, you thanking your readers, whatever feels natural to you!

Start small.

As you can see with all of the above marketing strategies, you just have to start small. Nobody is expecting you to do every single tip above, to have 100k followers on social media overnight, or to sell 500k copies of your book in a week. However, these strategies are all a great way to build up your author brand, books, and audience to get where you want to be as an author.

If you strategically look at where you feel you need growth as an author and start there, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come in a matter of months, even if that growth is just selling 10 more copies of your book, or gaining 100 Instagram followers! All of it builds on itself, so take it one step at a time and remember to enjoy the journey of gaining readers for your books.

Books Forward April 2022 Newsletter

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

Read the April 2022 newsletter here!

Book industry reviews: what are they, and why are they useful?

Great authors are great readers, and as a reader, there are several sources you might turn to in order to discover new books: trusted newspapers like The New York Times, book bloggers, social media hubs like Goodreads and Instagram, or your local bookstore or library.

But have you ever wondered how booksellers and librarians find out about upcoming book releases, or how publishing professionals keep up to date with emerging authors and industry trends?

Typically, these industry leaders and tastemakers will turn to trade publications such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal for book news and reviews. If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of these esteemed publications, then you’re in the right place! This article will explore how you can get a book review in a trade publication, thereby connecting you with booksellers, librarians, and other bookish professionals across the country.

What is an “industry review”?

An industry review is a term for a book review that is featured in a trade publication reaching publishing professionals, booksellers, and/or librarians directly. Here are some of the most common trade publications:

As an author, why do I want an industry review?

First and foremost, a positive review with a longstanding, reputable industry publication will help lend your book credibility. These reviews hold a lot of weight to those in the industry, and a starred review or favorable blurb can go a long way.

It will also help get your book in front of booksellers and librarians – and since both groups have major purchasing power, it’s not a bad idea to get on their radar.

How can I get an industry review?

Most trade publications require a formal submission, which includes sending copies of a book at least 4-6 months in advance of publication day. Often, your publisher or publicist will handle the submission process for you, using an ARC. (Not sure what an ARC is? Learn more here).

Not every submission will lead to a review, but if a book is accepted, the review will typically be published in advance of release day.

I’m an indie author. Can I still submit my book for an industry review?

The short answer is yes! Indie authors often face a lot of hurdles getting their books in front of literary tastemakers like bookstore owners and librarians, and industry reviews can be a great way to help bridge the gap.

Indie authors often have two options when it comes time to submit for a review: a free option and a paid option.

Traditional submissions, while free, are not guaranteed to return a review. And they are typically much stricter as far as the timeline is concerned. If you or your publisher won’t have access to ARCs 4 to 6 months in advance of pub day, then you may not be eligible for a free review submission.

In order to provide more flexibility for indie authors and small publishers, many industry publications have a paid model for submissions that allows you to submit for a review on your own timeline. For a fee, you are guaranteed to receive an unbiased review, typically within 4-8 weeks of your submission.

One question I get a lot from authors is whether paid reviews are taken seriously. Because paid review services do not guarantee a positive outcome, they are seen as legitimate by book industry members as long as they come from a reputable source like Kirkus, Foreword or Publishers Weekly.

Which publications have paid review options?

While there are countless paid book review opportunities out there, only a handful hold genuine credibility and name-recognition within the industry. We typically recommend paid reviews with these trusted publications:

Although it’s not necessary, you can certainly submit for paid reviews with multiple publications if your budget allows.

And if you’re unsure about a certain paid opportunity that you’ve found, do some research before rolling the dice. Look up the publications’ social media accounts and see what their follower counts and engagement rate are. Check out some sample book reviews on their website, and don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials from past customers. If things seem at all suspect, definitely hold off. And, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I’ve got my review back – what do I do now?

Hooray! The hard part (waiting) is over. You should now scan your review for any potential blurbs that you might want to use in promotional materials.

Once you’ve found your money quote, you can make the most of it by:

  • Getting it printed on the final version of your book. Your publisher might want to add this to your front or back cover, or an inside praise page, if your timeline allows for it.
  • Adding it to the Editorial Reviews section of your Amazon listing.
  • Sharing it on social media, and adding it to social media banners.
  • Adding it to your website.
  • Including it on printed promo materials such as a press release, bookmarks, or postcards.

While industry reviews are invaluable for their ability to connect your book directly with industry insiders before your publication date, they also have many long-term benefits. Positive blurbs from these reviews can be used in promotional materials for years to come!

audience and readers

Tips for building your author community

When writing a book and getting it out into the world, authors are often most focused on finding their audience and readers – rightfully so! But it’s quite important to also find your fellow writers and network with authors who can provide you with support throughout your incredible journey – and who you, too, can support!

Writing can be isolating work, and authors often find themselves without a community. If you are looking to establish yourself and build relationships with other authors, here are some tips!

Look at commonly used author hashtags on social media to find fellow writers.

Be sure to try looking at #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram or #authorsofbooktok #writersofbooktok on TikTok, etc. Check out some videos and see if there are any authors that have similar genres or personalities as you – they might just become your new friend!

Join debut groups.

These groups are great for new authors! You can find them on social media or simply by searching #2022debuts and similar hashtags depending on your pub date! If you are someone who published during the pandemic, it might help to go through #2020debuts to see what that experience was like for other first-time authors.

Connect with authors you admire.

The writers that you connect with don’t always have to be on the same publishing journey as you. Maybe you connect with someone who’s far more established, or maybe they knocked their debut out of the park and you’d love to know how. It never hurts to drop a line to the authors you’re reading that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and seeing if they might want to mentor you. At the least, they’ll be flattered you thought of them!

Go to local author events.

Be sure to check out your local indie bookstores and the events they have going on. It’s a great place to meet fellow readers, writers, and of course, the author being featured! Get there a bit early, chat up the people in line to get their book signed – you never know who you might meet.

Attend writer’s workshops.

Just as important as being at a book expo is attending writer’s workshops. While the focus is always your craft, brand, and of course, your writing, everyone else in attendance is looking at theirs. It’s great to connect with and empathize with one another. While you workshop your writing, you’ll be able to learn from the other brilliant writers who have gathered there – and they might just learn something from you!