What is a street team and how should I use it?

As an author, have you ever thought about just how great it would be if you had a network of friends you knew would be dedicated to helping you promote your book? Sound like a fantasy?

Enter the street team.

A street team is a group of readers that help you promote your book, usually the most loyal fans of your previous books, or books in similar genres.

The relationship built between author and team members is beneficial for both parties. Team members will have access to their favorite author (you!) as well as other exclusive content. And as an author, you’ll have a team dedicated to promoting your upcoming book by posting and talking about it to their network of followers and friends — building up buzz ahead of your book’s launch!

How to recruit team members

The first step after deciding to compose a street team is, of course, recruiting members. If this is your first time getting a team together, try and shoot for between 20-50 members initially. More is great! But keep in mind you’ll have to keep track of if everyone is doing their part and promoting on their end. Exclusivity also helps make everyone on the team feel more special as well. A fun way to cement that exclusivity: Consider coming up with a creative team name!

And remember, team members need to be active online. There will be opportunities to promote your book in person — like talking with a bookseller or book club — but word-of-mouth will be most effective online and on social media.

Where to find members

  • Reach out to friends and family who would be a good fit
  • Check in with any beta readers you may already have
  • Go through previous relationships with book bloggers and people who have previously reviewed your book
  • If you’re promoting the next book in a series or a book similar to a previous work, reach out to people who have positively reviewed your book on Goodreads, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc.
  • Announce in your mailing list, newsletter or on social media that you’re looking for team members

Have people fill out a Google Form so you can go through and pick who would be best for the team, or create a form/page on your website where they can enter info. Ask them things like what social media accounts they have, other books they’ve read in your book’s genre, any specific ideas for how they’d like to see your book promoted, etc. Consider keeping a tab on your website where people can request to join and you can consider building up your team for future books.

How to communicate with your team

So how do you keep track of communication with members once you’ve assembled your team? You’ll need to have an online space where all members can have access. Consider creating a private page on your website that only team members can access with a password. Or an easy option: Create a private Facebook page with just you and members — just make sure everyone in your team has a Facebook account!

Wherever you decide to keep team communication, you should make it a goal to post here regularly as well (we know, basically another social media platform!!). But interaction is important: It helps team members get to know you and vice versa. And it builds a great relationship with your team for future releases.

Notes on communication

  • Try and keep content focused around you and your book. After all, the goal of your street team is to promote your work!
  • Organize things like author interviews/takeovers with other authors to cross-promote and provide new content for your team members.
  • Make sure your team has access to any kind of promotional materials, both digital and physical. This could be bookmarks they can pass out to friends or flyers, stickers, buttons, etc. that they can drop off at local bookstores and libraries.
  • And again, exclusivity is important! When making announcements, make sure team members are one of the first — if not the first — group you reach out to and alert of something new. For instance, if you’re planning a cover reveal, your team should be able to see the cover before the general public.
  • You can also consider hosting a special launch event/party with just team members to celebrate all their hard work leading up to your book’s launch!

How to incentivize team members

It’s important to keep your team active and engaged during the book promotion process. The easiest way to do that is to create a challenge system where members must complete a task to receive a special reward, i.e.: After they post about the book on all their social media accounts, they’ll get a sneak peek of a future book excerpt. For bigger challenges/rewards, you can have drawings for prizes, i.e.: If someone gets a book club to read your book, they can be entered for a video chat session with you.

Potential rewards for your system

  • First access to any advance reader copies
  • Early access to extra written content like short stories, prequels,
  • Signed copies of books
  • If they aren’t already, consider allowing them to be beta readers for future novels
  • Sneak peeks at cover and title reveals, excerpts from future books etc.
  • Early and/or exclusive access to content on your author website or blog
  • Bonus book-related content like printable artworks, maps, bookmarks etc.
  • A video chat session with you (or potentially with an author friend as well if you’re working on cross-promoting!)
  • Promotion of your team members’ blogs and social media accounts on your own channels
  • A shoutout in the acknowledgements section of subsequent books

Potential challenges for members

  • Have them leave reviews of your book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, other bookseller sites, their own personal blogs, etc.
  • Posting Instagram photos (if you don’t already have a hashtag around your book/series, now would be a good time to think of one!)
  • If they have a blog, hosting you for an interview or guest post.
  • Sharing others’ reviews and social media posts about you and your books
  • Sharing your blog posts and reposting posts from your social media accounts
  • Posting shoutouts of you and your book on their own social media channels
  • Talking about and recommending your book(s) to their family members, friends, etc.
  • Requesting your book(s) at their local libraries and suggesting them to any book clubs

There’s no set limit on how often you dish out challenges and rewards, but weekly challenges are a good goal to shoot for. You want challenges to be often enough to keep members active and engaged, but you don’t want to give them too many challenges that they are overwhelmed. Being a team member should be fun — not a chore!

Organize your system in the beginning of your book promotion period so that as the weeks go on, all you have to do is keep track of if team members are completing the challenges. And don’t forget to let everyone know that the rewards are not the main purpose of the team: They’re a way of thanking team members. The goal is to get the word out about you and your book to new readers!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why are romance novels most commonly published in paperback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s important to take a great author headshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are reader newsletters and how can they help me?

Authors are always trying to find new ways to reach readers and get their book to as many people as possible. There are a lot of ways to achieve this, but one of the more successful strategies is by submitting for reader newsletters.

So, what are reader newsletters?

Reader newsletters are essentially tools for book promotion. They are free to readers, and publishers or authors pay to have their book included. A newsletter is sent out to subscribers advertising books that are on sale, or even free, for a limited time.

The cost to have your book included varies based on the newsletter but it can range from around ten dollars to hundreds of dollars. This usually has to do with the audience you are reaching. 

These newsletters are all about offering bargains for their subscribers, which means that to run a book promotion through them, you usually drop your e-book price between $0-$3.99 for 3-5 days. This is what draws readers in to buying your book. 

It is a great way to gain exposure and get some sales. Often these promotions increase your standing in Amazon rankings, which also gets your book seen by more people. 

Many newsletters allow you to target a specific genre which means that the people seeing your book in the newsletter are the type of person who is most likely to buy your book.

It is important, however, to try and pick newsletters that often see good results. You ideally want to generate at least enough sales to pay for the promotion.

So, what are some of the best ones?

We submit for a full range of newsletters and the best ones do depend on genre and other factors, but here are some of my top recommendations.

  1. Bookbub: This always gets great results, but it is pretty pricey (can cost thousands of dollars), and they only accept 10-15% of the books that are submitted. If you are selected, it is a great opportunity and usually is one that recoups the money spent on the promotion itself. Just be aware that you may have to submit multiple times before you are selected.
  2. Bargain Booksy: This ranges from $10-$95 depending on the genre and is easy to submit for.
  3. Fussy Librarian: Easy to submit for, ranges from $10-$30 depending on genre.
  4. Book Lemur: I don’t just love it for the fun name, but it is a plus. This newsletter costs anywhere from $25-$55 depending on price drop price point and genre. They are easy to submit for and are very communicative if there is ever a problem.
  5. Just Kindle: This is a great one that is set at $43. There is no waiting around to get approved for this one. Everything is quick, and your newsletter ad is scheduled before you leave the website.

There are many newsletters out there and they all have benefits!

So, what do you need in order to submit for them?

Each website is a little different in the information needed to book an ad. Here are some of the things that are often required:

  • Title of the book and author name
  • Email
  • Original price point and discounted price during the dates selected
  • ASIN
  • Book cover image
  • Short description of book (Pay attention to character count required on each site)
  • Author bio
  • Number of ratings/star rating
  • Dates of price drop
  • Date you want the ad to run

Some newsletters require all of that information while others only want a subset. It is important to have these things on hand so that the submission process can be quick.

So, is it worth it?

Reader newsletters can be extremely beneficial in getting your book on the radar of a new set of people. Having these ads go out to people who love your genre can boost sales and your ranking on Amazon. As an author, exposure is likely one of your top priorities. Running these ads and these discounts is a perfect way to catch the reader’s eye. This is a low time commitment way to see maximum results.

 

Some of our favorite authors to follow on Twitter

We live in a golden age — not only do we get to read masterful books from some truly groundbreaking authors, but we also get to follow them on social media and see what they’re having for lunch and their musings on the latest Taylor Swift album. I’ve been on bookstagram for a while, but recently started getting more into Book Twitter, and while it is a wild and lawless place, it’s also full of hilarious, thoughtful writers. It makes sense that great writing would translate to wonderful social media accounts — check out some of our favorites!

  1. C.L. Polk, author of The Kingston Cycle novels and The Midnight Bargain. Her tweets are somehow relatable and hilarious.
  2. Christina Lauren, author duo who has written 25+ romance books together. They will remind you that being a romance writer isn’t all champagne and flowers.
  3. Kwame Mbalia, author of the middle-grade Tristan Strong series and Last Gate of the Emperor. He is the creator of Gum Baby, Tristan Strong’s snarky sidekick, who is the best thing about the internet.
  4. Saeed Jones, poet and author of How We Fight For Our Lives and Prelude to A Bruise. I follow him for unapologetic takes on the news, politics, writing, and everything else. And for the judgemental cuteness of his dog.
  5. Susan Orlean, writer for The New Yorker, and author of multiple books. Over the summer, a drunken tweetstorm provided some much-needed laughter.
  6. Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, The Queen of the Night, and Edinburgh. He’s a professor of creative writing at Dartmouth, and his tweets make you realize that the truly great writers see things a little bit differently.
  7. Jasmine Guillory, author of five romance novels. She’s been open and honest about the difficulties of keeping on during the pandemic, which has provided me with some much-needed realism. Her newsletter is also wonderful — I’ve gotten some great recipes from it!
  8. Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life and the upcoming Filthy Animals. My favorite things are his hot takes on centuries-old pieces of art. 
  9. R.F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War trilogy. Readers are constantly tweeting sentiments like “WHY!?” at her as they make their way through her books and terrible things happen to their favorite characters — she seems to take great delight in this, and it’s hilarious to watch.
  10. Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know, editor of Catapult. She recently started a parenting column, and I’ve found it enlightening and inspiring. Also her Peggy the puppy tweets are a pure endorphin rush.
  11. Roxane Gay, author of several books and contributor to multiple anthologies. Honestly, there are so many reasons to follow her, but I think her pinned tweet sums it up: “I will say it again. My tweets are not meant to be universal. They will not nor cannot account for every reality. If something I say doesn’t include or apply to you that doesn’t invalidate your truth.”
  12. Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things and the upcoming With Teeth. The randomness of her thoughts regularly makes me snort with laughter.
  13. Dahlia Adler, author of several novels and book blogger. She regularly champions other authors’ books with boundless enthusiasm and joy, which is truly delightful.
  14. Leah Johnson, author of You Should See Me in A Crown and the upcoming Rise to the Sun. Her small obsessions always make me smile — when she talked about Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson, it ended up making me start the series.
  15. R.O. Kwon, coeditor of Kink, author of The Incendiaries and contributor to multiple outlets. She can tweet back to back tweets about writing panic, political disgust and needing a haircut without breaking a sweat.
  16. Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys and the upcoming Lost in the Never Woods. He has so much enthusiasm for the things that he loves that it will leap through the screen.
  17. Sabaa Tahir author of An Ember in the Ashes series. Another writer who seems to take pleasure from the pain she causes her readers by putting the characters in her books through pain and suffering.
  18. Alisha Rai, romance author most recently of First Comes Like. She creates excellent TikTok videos and posts them on Twitter for everyone’s enjoyment.
  19. Samantha Irby, blogger and author of several books. No one’s books have ever made me laugh like hers, and this translates well to her Twitter feed. 
  20. Sarah Gailey, author of several novellas and books, most recently The Echo Wife. Their tweets take on the most random of things, and they always stands up for the disabled community.

And special shout out to Mike Lasagna — he’s not an author, but champions them relentlessly in a way that will make you buy way too many books.

Influencer Marketing Tips and Tricks for Authors

The term “social media influencer” comes up often these days, though it is vague and meaningless to some people. Books Forward is here to help you find out who these people are, and how you both can work together!

Who are influencers?

Influencers are people who have a decent following on social media, full of an audience of people who are specifically interested in the influencer’s opinions on whatever topics or items it is they discuss. Some influencers are “fitness gurus” who post videos of workout plans, their healthy eating habits and fitness clothing brands they prefer. Other influencers post makeup tutorials and makeup brand preferences. In the book world, there is an entire community of influencers who make posts that center around books they love, books they are reading, books they are planning to read, books they bought six months ago but still haven’t had a chance to pick up, books with beautiful covers, books with sad endings. . . do you see the theme here? There is an entire social media world out there that focuses specifically on books. As an author searching for an audience, it is crucial and beneficial to tap into that!

What do influencers do?

All of the posts that influencers make on social media build their reputation on their platform. Twitter’s #BookTwitter, TikTok’s #Booktok, Youtube’s “Booktube” and Instagram’s “Bookstagram” accounts are popular platforms for booklovers to unite and discuss everything that is books. Twitter is a place where people typically discuss in-depth themes of books, while TikTok features aesthetically pleasing videos of bookshelves with books arranged by color, or book challengers for people to complete together. Youtube is a great place to find people talking through book reviews, and Bookstagram has beautiful, artsy pictures of books with thoughtful captions about the books featured.

Influencers with a large following are often sent book after book from many different publishers, so the books they decide are good enough to read, or have an attractive enough cover to post, hold significant value in the book world. However, large accounts can also be deceiving. Sometimes, sending your book to an account with a smaller following will garner just as many audience members because of engagement of posts and thoughtfulness in posts. People like to get an opinion on a book from somebody they trust, and when a well-respected influencer gives a raving review about a book on their account, it immediately gains leverage.

What Does This Mean for Authors?

This is the most important question, right? Why does this entire “book world” on social media matter? It just sounds like an outlet for people who are obsessed with reading, right? Well, that is right, and that is also why it is important for authors. Just like us, a lot of these influencers have their specific preferences. Maybe there’s one who LOVES historical fiction novels, or YA romance novels. If you are releasing your debut YA romance novel and manage to get an influencer to read and review your book positively, you now have a significant following of people listening. About YOUR book. Even if you only get the influencer to post a picture of your book, saying they are excited to read it, it gets your book in front of people who are potentially interested. You are tapping into a niche audience that was basically formulated for books like yours!

A lot of the time, influencers will be perfectly happy with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. A lot of bookstagrammers don’t post negative reviews so it depends on who you reach out to, but you basically send them the book for a post on their story, or a picture on their feed. Also they aren’t sent as many books as the bigger accounts and can be more thoughtful with posts.

Common Misconceptions

It is not always about the number of followers that a bookstagrammer has. If you get an influencer who has 100k followers to read your post your book, but your book is YA and the influencer prefers mystery books, the audience receiving the message is targeted to people who might not be interested in your book. It is best to find an influencer who’s brand lines up with yours, because the people representing your book are a reflection of it. You want people who support and appreciate your work as an author and your book’s genre. Accounts with smaller followings should not be cast aside because of their size; these accounts may look smaller but could have a high engagement level! This is something you should always consider when picking influencers to work with. Smaller accounts also don’t have as many books coming their way, and the chance of getting a review or post from them is higher. Reach out to a variety of followings, and focus on the branding of the individual influencer.

 

Building a world based on kindness, joy, and writing

This, as we all know, has been a hell of a year. But one thing this year has brought us is the opportunity to create new systems and build the world we want. For much of my life, I’ve been trying to do just that. I even gave my world a name: LoriLand. When things in the “real” world frustrated me, I would declare, “Well, in LoriLand, teachers and artists make the most money,” or, “In LoriLand, critical thinking and empathy are part of every core curriculum.” (Sometimes I would get asked pesky questions such as, “Who makes all the judgment calls?” To which I would answer, “Me! It’s called LoriLand, after all.”)

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that kindness, happiness and the arts are some of the things I care about the most. At the end of 2017, as a way to see if anyone else was interested in a mash-up of these three things, I came up with the idea of the 30-Day Writers Happiness Challenge: 30 days of daily, five-minute happiness prompts for writers. I put up a Facebook post, added a page to my website, and waited to see what would happen. And within two weeks, with nearly zero promotion, 500 writers from around the world had signed up.

Turns out it wasn’t just me who cared about this. It was a lot of us.

With this in mind, the Writers Happiness Movement was launched earlier this year. It’s based on two unwavering beliefs: that kindness, inclusion and joy matter and that the written word is one of the most powerful ways to promote courage, empathy and ferocity of the heart. The idea of the movement is to create more happiness for each individual writer, while making the world a better place for all writers.

Here’s how it works: The Writers Happiness Movement offers a plethora of free happiness tools created specifically for writers, all open to everyone without cost. These tools are designed to help writers access more joy, more writing time, and more spaciousness for and around our writing and our lives. They include online writing retreats, online yoga/meditation/breathwork for writers, and weekly 5-minute Writers Happiness exercises. Over a thousand writers have participated in these so far! There also are microgrants, little infusions of cash meant to cheer a writer on. Two of these tiny grants, currently $25 each, go out monthly to writers nominated by a friend. The only requirements are that the nominee has to be some kind of writer and also has to be someone you think is a good person. If you want to nominate someone, you can do so here.

As the movement grows, there will be larger grants, residencies, fellowships, and — the big goal — retirement homes and co-living spaces that are free to writers, completely paid for by the Writers Happiness Movement.

How is this funded, you might ask? Well, it’s LoriLand, so it’s funded in a way that I think is healthy for humans and the planet: through an alternative, community-based, open-handed economic structure that has kindness and equity at its root. While all the happiness tools are free to everyone, if someone would like and is able to, they can become a patron of Writers Happiness at $5/month. This funds the programs that require money. Becoming a patron of Writers Happiness is similar to becoming a patron of an individual artist, except that instead of supporting one writer so that writer can keep creating, you’re supporting programs designed to build a world where all writers can keep creating.

This is meant to be both a revolution and a refuge. There’s nothing you have to do to be part of the Writers Happiness Movement, other than be who you are and write what you write (and sign up for it, of course). Because who you are and what you write are exactly what our world needs.

There are so many people right now consciously choosing kindness over fear. Choosing love over anger. Choosing to write and create even if it sometimes seems impossible. This is a home for all of us.

Let’s rewrite the world, one writer at a time.

Author Bio: Lori Snyder is the founder of the Writers Happiness Movement. She’s also a writer, a long-time yoga teacher, leader of the Splendid Mola Writing Retreats, and a great fan of all things gritty and glittery at the same time. Her debut middle grade fantasy, “The Circus at the End of the Sea” — which is her love letter to delight, the ocean, and Venice, California — is out with HarperCollins in fall 2021. You can find her, and the Writers Happiness Movement, at www.writershappiness.com.

 

4 tips for writing a great book synopsis

 

A succinct, compelling book description is a crucial element in any book marketing campaign. Yet, for many authors, penning a well-constructed description of their work is easier said than done. This is understandable. Who wants to see the fruits of their labor crammed into the space of a couple of paragraphs? No one wants to force their baby into such a little box.

As difficult as it may be, it’s important when writing a book description to think about your book from the perspective of a total stranger. Why should they be interested in you or your beloved book? What are the five main points you think will stand out to them, and why are they important? If you can condense your book to an easily digestible, compelling description, you will have much more luck convincing editors, bloggers, publishers and book reviewers to give it a chance. Try to use brevity to your advantage and give your audience just enough information to get them hooked.

Sure, writing a book blurb can feel like a ruthless, editorial bloodbath. But cutting your book down to the most vital or tantalizing points will give you a new understanding of your work, and your book will be better for it. If you’re feeling uncertain, here are some common book blurb pitfalls to avoid.

1. Don’t over explain the plot.

One of the most common problems we see with book blurbs is when an author can’t decide when to stop describing elements of the plot. The result is usually an overly long book blurb, bloated with plot points, yet short on why we should read the book. While it’s important to give readers an idea of the story they’re about to read, there’s no point in giving away all the twists and turns before they’re even invested in the main character. Try to focus on summing up the main plot and its themes in a single sentence, two at the most. That should be enough for readers to get an idea whether they’re interested.

2. Don’t oversell your book with “filler” adjectives.

Another dubious feature of many book descriptions is when the author appears to be reviewing, rather than describing, their own book. Sure, maybe your book really is a “compelling,” “heart-rending,” story, “perfect for readers of all ages,” but why should anyone take your word for it? Too many superlative descriptions act as filler and, unless they can be attributed to an actual reviewer, often make the author look specious. Rather than wasting your word count, try to focus on why your book is compelling or heart-rending and tell that to the reader.

3. Highlight your book’s primary conflict.

Something we often see with book descriptions is that authors will get so overwhelmed with information that they forget to outline the main conflict of their book. It should go without saying that conflict is an essential element to every good story, and since it’s likely the thrust of your narrative, it’s good to make the central conflict of your story clear from the outset. Is your protagonist struggling with illness? Social oppression? Evil god-like forces? The conflict of your narrative is more often than not what will draw your readers in, so why not make it clear from the outset?

4. Avoid clichés and overused descriptors.

By trying to be thoughtful about outlining the details of your main plot, themes, and central conflict, you’re also telling the readers about why your book is unique. Yes, at the end of the day, your story may be a classic tale of a protagonist’s struggle between the forces of good and evil. But should you describe it that way? Surely, it’s not as generic as that, right? Try as much as possible to avoid these clichés and describe your book with language its unique qualities and highlights your individuality as an author. Don’t let your book blurb sell your book short!

One rule of thumb: think of your book blurb less as a description of your book and more as an adaptation. Rather than just telling readers about your book, imagine you’re adapting your book into a new poetic format, that gives its complexities in miniature condensations of narrative description. And, as always, consider cutting a sentence or two when you’re done!

Relax and read with an ambiance room


My focus has been a little … scattered in recent months. But one thing that has helped me concentrate is ambiance rooms! These videos are usually a scene or several scenes that run for hours. You can keep them on the in background — some have music, and some are just accompanied by light sounds from the visuals around the site, but all of them are calming.

Whether you are trying to sit down and read or work or just sit with your thoughts for a few minutes, we’ve collected some of our favorite rooms for to you to relax in!

  1. My personal favorite place to virtually visit? The Shire. Just the thought of visiting Bilbo in his little house under the hill and having a cup of tea makes me sigh with relief.
  2. Even though we can’t go work in a coffee shop in person right now, you can recreate a similar vibe with some light jazz and the pitter patter of rain. 
  3. Want to take a quick trip to Scotland with Jamie Fraser (who doesn’t)? Check out this video with babbling brooks and Outlander music
  4. If someone asked me my ideal writing situation, I would simply show them this vibrant desk set up in front of gently falling autumn leaves with the sound of wind chimes in the background.
  5. And if I could read anywhere, I’d choose to settle in among these magnificent stacks with a thunderstorm pounding at the windows.
  6. Or perhaps I’ll take a quick jaunt through the wardrobe to visit the peaceful winter woods of Narnia under a blanket of snow.
  7. If being indoors in winter is more of your thing, settle in by the fireplace and let the crackling wood and flickering candles relax you. 
  8. Need some alone time? Try this scene of nighttime in the mountains under the stars with the chirps of crickets and no one else around for miles.
  9. Or if a tropical getaway is what you’re looking for, escape to this bookstore on an island — the quiet background noises are so soothing.
  10. And, of course, there’s the classic sound of waves crashing on the shore under palm trees that is sure to bring you peace.