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:

 

 

 

“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!

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!

#BooksForwardHelpline: Helping you learn how to download ebooks and audiobooks, and connecting you to your next great read

With libraries and many bookstores closing physical locations for quarantine and Amazon suspending nonessential shipments, book lovers who prefer physical copies are faced with a dilemma: How will you get your hands on your next great read? We understand not everyone is familiar with how to access ebooks and audiobooks, and figuring this out can be daunting if you’re self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Books Forward has organized a free helpline to connect readers with the books they need. Call us at (615) 212-8549 between 9 a.m and 5 p.m. CT, or browse our resources below.

We can help you:

1. Learn how to download ebooks and audiobooks

Read our helpful guide, and call us if you have any questions. We can walk you step-by-step through the process of downloading digital and audiobooks so you can easily begin reading or listening to a new book at the touch of a button.

2. Troubleshoot downloads to your preferred e-reader, iPad, computer or phone

Providers offer online help desks to assist you through common issues you may run into:

And call us if you still need help figuring out the best way to download reading material, regardless of your reading device.

3. Offer reading recommendations to help you find a new book you’ll love

Need something new to read and not sure where to start? You can join our #BooksForward Reading Challenge, where we are reading, sharing and discussing new books (a great way to feel more connected right now!). And check out our curated reading list, where we’ve compiled some of our favorite books that are particularly helpful and relevant for readers who are stuck at home during this time. Or call us! We have tons of great recommendations for you based on your reading preferences!

4. Discover how to support indie bookstores and libraries from home

You may be able to pick up a physical book curbside at your local bookstore or library. But you can still engage with and support your favorite independent bookstore and local library, even when their doors are closed. We’ll teach you how to order ebooks from bookstores and use your library’s app to download books.

Ready to get reading? Call our Books Forward helpline at (615) 212-8549 if you have any additional questions, and let us help you get connected to your next great book without leaving home!

Also check out these resources and articles from our family of authors and experts in response to coronavirus: 

May you have happy and healthy reading.

New to digital and audiobook downloads? Here’s what you need to know. 

You’re homebound due to COVID-19, your local library and bookstore are closed, and you’ve just finished the last book on your shelf. What’s a reader to do? With popular online retailers like Amazon suspending nonessential shipments such as physical book deliveries (although we would argue that good literature is essential in times of stress or crisis), the fact is that digital and audiobooks are now your best, most easily accessible reading option.  

But what if you’re new and unfamiliar to the world of literary downloads? Not to worry: purchasing digital and audiobooks is easier than ever, and we’re here to walk you through it. 

There are multiple sites and apps where you can easily purchase ebooks and audiobooks. The most popular are Kobo, Amazon Kindle, My Must Reads, Libro.FM, Scribd and Audible

We urge you to support your local bookstores even while their doors are closed for coronavirus, by purchasing digital ebooks from them directly using Kobo and My Must Reads, and you can purchase audiobooks from them via Libro.FM. A few clicks, and boom! You’ve got a new book downloaded immediately to your phone, tablet, computer or reading device, and you’re benefiting your local bookseller. Indiebound also offers helpful info on each service.

Kobo enables you to purchase ebooks directly through indie bookstores, and BookRiot has super helpful step-by-step instructions on how to create an account and start downloading books from your preferred store. (Note that Kobo is not compatible with Kindle readers, because they have partnered with indie bookstores to sell their own ereader.) 

My Must Reads has a list of indie bookstores right on its homepage, giving easy access to purchase ebooks directly from the store.  

Libro.FM is a monthly subscription service for audiobooks, and right now they’re offering all new members two audiobook downloads for the price of one ($14.99) with 100% of your payment going to a local bookstore of your choice. Helpful tip: You have to purchase books on Libro’s website and then it goes to your app.

While each site has a slightly different approach, the basic steps are: 

  1. Register for an account or subscription with your preferred site. 
  2. If you don’t have an ereader, download your preferred site’s app to your computer, tablet or phone. You can find their app in the App Store of your device.
  3. Once you’ve created an account and are perusing the site, select the books and audiobooks you would like to purchase and download. You should be able to download them, or add them to your cart, with a single click.
  4. Pay for your selected downloads (if you purchased a subscription, you may skip this step, as you will have access to multiple or even unlimited downloads). 
  5. Start reading and/or listening to your next great book! 

Be sure to also check out our Books Forward Helpline (booksforward.com/helpline) for reading recommendations and other helpful resources related to social distancing and reading from home.

Now let’s take a closer look at what you may see when using these apps to download books:

 

The library is your friend, even if you can’t get to it

So you’re stuck at home, either because you aren’t feeling well or because you’re doing social distancing until the coronavirus hopefully goes away for good. For me, the library is my safe space – I go there when I’m stressed out or just need to escape. And it can still be that for you, even while you’re homebound!

Take advantage of all the other amazing opportunities the library offers online! Most libraries have either the Libby by OverDrive or the original OverDrive app, and others use Hoopla, cloudLibrary or RBDigital – all of them make it easy to download ebooks and audiobooks to your heart’s content.  For FREE! 

Here’s a step by step guide for those readers new to the online resources libraries offer:

  • First things first, if you don’t already have a library card, standard practice is to go into the library with a piece of mail that has your name and current address on it. But give your local library a call to see if they’re letting people sign up online during this unique time.
  • Download your preferred app from your phone’s app store – Libby by OverDrive is the most common option, but Hoopla and RBDigital are similar.
  • To find sign in information, go to your library’s website, and see if you have a personal account. You’ll have to use your library card number (found on your card itself) to sign in, and most libraries assign a password to you – there should be a section that walks you through the steps. But if you have trouble, just call and they can help!
  • We’re almost to the really fun part! When you have your library card number and password, open the Libby or Overdrive app on your phone, and enter your library card number and password.
  • Behold all the options open to you! You’ll see the library’s suggestions, but there’s also a search bar at the top where you can check and see if a book you want is available.
  • Audiobooks have a small headphone icon below the cover graphic to designate them from ebooks.
  • If a book is not currently available, instead of “borrow,” it will say “place hold.” Once you place your hold, you’ll get an estimate of how soon the book will be checked out to you – it’s usually pretty accurate! 
  • When you check out a book, it will go to your “shelf,” which can be found at the bottom right of your home screen. This will show you the loans you currently have, and all the books you put on hold.
  • Audiobooks open within the app, and most ebooks can be read within the app or on your preferred e-reader.
  • And you can check out multiple books and audiobooks at a time, because who doesn’t love options?
  • If you like to listen at a faster speed than the narrator speaks, there is an option at the top of your audiobook to speed things up. Just tap until you find the speed you prefer.
  • You can also increase the size on an ebook’s font with reading settings, and change the page color to best suit your preference!
  • Most libraries also make it easy to put books on hold through their website, and then you’ll get an email when it’s available for pick up. Some even offer drive-thru windows – all of these steps will help limit physical contact if you prefer a physical book!

Let’s take a closer look at how to use Libby!

 

Need some suggestions or have more questions on how all of this works? Visit the Books Forward Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/booksforwardpr/) for video explanations on our stories, and check in with us – we’re more than happy to help! And if YOU have more tips to share, please comment here or on our Instagram post. Book friends gotta stick together!

Our Books Forward team cannot stress enough how crucial libraries are to our society. On top of providing communities with books and other media we love to consume, they offer many other trustworthy, reliable and informative resources, including on the coronavirus. Check out this handy guide put together by the Eastern Virginia Medical School Library to help us all understand the outbreak.