Many authors use Twitter to engage with their readership and promote upcoming titles. With over 230 million active users, Twitter is an amazing tool to get your message across to a wide audience, but how do you use it to great effect? Continue reading
If your writing goal in 2013 was to publish your book, there’s still time. Book Country is running two publishing promotions… but they end when the ball drops tomorrow night.
When it comes to promoting your book, invest your resources in what brings you joy.
During Author (R)evolution Day at this year’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference, journalist Porter Anderson interviewed Grub Street founder Eve Bridburg on finding “The Author Blueprint for Success.”
She explained that, upon publication, the typical author strategy has been: build community through a platform and use social media to support your sales. But, with so many different options, which ones should you choose?
Grub Street studied this and came up with a three-part logic model of success. (It sounds more intimidating than it is.)
First: Determine your mission and intent. Like a company that uses a mission statement to guide it, create a statement that focuses on what you want to accomplish, why you’re producing books, and to whom and what you want to offer.
Then: Define success. This is easier said than done. Eve qualifies that success is bigger than sales. Ask yourself: What are your goals for the book? What brings you energy and joy? How do you want to spend your time? How will you know you’re successful?
The final part: Create an authentic campaign. Examine your strengths and weaknesses. What do you like doing? What feels good to you? Identify the activities that line up with your mission and definition of success.
This becomes your map. You can commit to investing your time and money because you know what path you’re headed down. It feels less scattered because you’re not trying to conquer everything without a plan. You’ve found the things you’re good at, the things that are unique to your voice, and the things you enjoy doing. That’s how you create an authentic marketing and promotion campaign. Go and do them. Then, measure to see how your tactics are lining up with your definition of success.
Book Country Twitter Chat (March 15, 2012)
Learn about the ins and outs of book packaging from experts of Stonesong agency, Ellen Scordato, Alison Fargis, and Judith Linden.
What is book packaging?! It has nothing to do with literally packaging a physical book. It is an alternative way to get published, also known as book development. Book packagers may be enigmatic figures to laymen, but any industry insider will tell you that they play a fundamental role in the book world!
As one of our guests Alison Fargis told us, the book packager is like an independent film producer, in charge of doing everything that has to do with putting a book together — working with writers and publishers on a project management level, offering comprehensive editorial, design, and production work, as well as marketing and PR. Book packagers help publishers execute difficult or crash projects. Or they come up with their own idea for a book and hire writers who bring the concept to life.
How does this pertain to YOU? Well, the book packaging industry employs a ton of freelance writers and publishing professionals. It is a great way to break into the biz and get writing credits. Our special guests to tell us more are the ladies of Stonesong, a NYC-based literary, publishing, and book development agency — Ellen Scordato (@EScordato), Alison Fargis ( @AlisonFargis), and Judith Linden ( @JudyLinden1) — mostly package non-fiction.
Ellen Scordato is a book packager who handles production, design and custom publishing, and has a quarter century of in-depth publishing experience. She used to be a managing editor who loved production and midwifing great ideas, and it is the passion for project management that got her into book packaging.
Alison Fargishas 17 years of packaging and book development experience. She often puts on a literary agent hat, representing clients such as bestselling author of The Sisters Grimm, Michael Buckley. In 2002, Alison and Ellen co-founded Stonesong.
Judith Linden joined Ellen and Alison at Stonesong in 2004 as Executive VP, Literary Agent, and Director of Digital and Print Media. Prior to joining Stonesong, Judith spent nearly 20 years as an executive editor and book developer at two major publishing houses.
Together, they have produced many bestselling titles, including The Daring Book for Girls, Dating the Undead, and Smart Words. With 75 years of combined editorial and packaging experience, they are a treasure trove of pub insight! Here’s a taste:
@JudyLinden1: Basically we [book packagers] are agents plus. We follow a project from inception to final form. For PETFINDER [a book about adopting shelter dogs], we found the org, wrote proposal, sold it, edited every word, managed photos, delivered ms to pub.
@EScordato: We don’t have writers on staff. We compose teams specifically for each project, depending on the expertise needed.Suppose we a book on culinary history or a craft book. We might look for writers who have blogs on the subject, or teach on it.
@AlisonFargis: We also look for writers for the crash projects publishers send our way.
@JudyLinden1: [Biggest subjects in non-fiction book packaging right now] cooking, design, lifestyle, diet, relationships, pop psychology, pop culture, fashion, parenting among others.
@EScordato: Yes! We certainly are [considering every delivery medium]. Very active in developing ebooks.
@AlisonFargis: I keep resumes for years. I may not have a gig for u right now but if the right project comes along I will call.
If you missed the chat or want to refresh your memory, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document HERE. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.
Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.
Thanks to all of our chat participants!
REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats are taking a short hiatus, but typically occur every other Thursday. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Dates, topics, and special guests are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter @Book_Country.
A freelance designer advises on how to approach the make a great book cover.
“It’s your book, your baby, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.”
Whether you’re publishing an eBook, paperback, or hardcover book – a custom cover designed specifically for your book is always your best option. So, what I’ve cobbled together here are a few guidelines for working with a cover designer, because unless you are very experienced with sophisticated image manipulation software – such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator – and have professional design experience yourself, you really need to work with someone who does. The keywords here are “work with someone.”
1. COVER DESIGN SHOULD BE A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BETWEEN THE DESIGNER AND THE AUTHOR. Nobody knows your book as well as you do. In fact, it’s highly unlikely the designer will have read it or will have the time to do so. I ask my clients to fill out a questionnaire that gets us started on this collaborative process and then follow up with phone discussions and numerous email exchanges along the way. If your designer is not a collaborative type – find someone else. Period. It’s your book, your baby that you’ve sweated blood over, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.
2. LISTEN TO YOUR DESIGNER. Now that you’ve read #1, I must point out that you work with a designer for a reason – to help you put out an eye-catching cover that will attract buyers/readers. You may have your heart set on 72 pt. puce-colored type for the title, but if you’ve got a decent designer who says, “Uh, no…I don’t think so, and here’s why….” you need to listen. Keep an open mind.
3. BE HONEST. As an avid reader myself, few things tick me off more than buying a book based on a snazzy cover (lots of buyers/readers do this) only to discover that the cover has little or nothing to do with the content of the book. It’s dishonest and I will dump a client rather than do this.
4. WHAT ABOUT TYPE-ONLY COVERS? Unless your name is Tom Clancy, it probably isn’t a good idea. And even Clancy covers usually have some sort of art element on them along with the big type – a chopper, blood splatters, weapon, etc… Clancy has a huge following of slavishly loyal readers. Do you? If the answer is “No,” you need more than type on your cover. There are very rare exceptions to this rule and here is one of them – the U.S. and Canadian cover for the New York TimesBestseller ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I don’t know who designed this cover, but it’s a good job. Why is it an eye-catching exception?
a. The super-short title allows for a huge point size in the type – easily readable from a distance (for book store browsers);
b. The font chosen is an unusual, childish (HONESTY!) one and is presented in a different bright color for each letter;
c. Colorful letters against a stark white background make for high contrast that attracts the eye.
5. CHOOSING STOCK ART. I suppose Nora Roberts might be able to command a pricey photo shoot with models of her choice (think several thousand dollars), but don’t fantasize that you’ll have the same option. Most covers are designed with stock art. Stock photography can be expensive, or it can be free (see the Deadly Voyage cover above), and everything in between. The quality can also vary wildly. Lean on your designer here. From decades of experience, I can spot a lousy photograph with limited possibilities at a glance; chances are the author can’t. Things I look for in a photo, other than whether it is context-appropriate for the book, are: sharp focus, sufficient contrast, adequate foreground and background (for placement of the title, author name, and additional art elements as needed), appropriate color, and that indefinable quality that I call JAZZ (it’s got to turn me on).
6. YOUR COVER ART CAN – AND SHOULD – DO MORE FOR YOU. The most wonderful book in the world (even with a terrific cover) may well remain inadequately sold and read without promotion. Successful authors learn this lesson early on and live it. Can the art elements on your cover be easily used promotionally on items such as: book trading cards, bookmarks, ads, website banners, merchandise (mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc…)? There is no reason why you should have to purchase additional stock art or promotional purposes if you’re smart about it from the start. Discuss this with your designer (hopefully your designer offers these services as well) and let her/him guide you to wise choices that can easily be re-used in marketing your book.
7. WHAT ABOUT USING A PRE-MADE COVER? The trick to using a pre-made cover is finding one that suits your book. Not all designers offer them because they really aren’t good money-makers. I do because I have a weak spot for fledgling authors with skimpy purses. You can see my current stock of pre-made eBook covers here. If you must go the pre-made route, look for two things: the best fit for your book; and, a designer who will insert the title and author name for you at no additional charge (the designer will have a wide selection of fonts to choose from – I have hundreds – and a good eye for the best placement, size, color, etc…).
I asked a Twitter pal of mine, Robin Bradford (aka @Tuphlos on Twitter), who is very savvy about book covers to choose a few she’s seen recently that really grabbed her attention. Robin is the Collection Development Librarian at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and doubtless sees thousands of covers every year – so she should know! Here are her selections and insightful comments:
“[The Watchtower cover is] a very menacing image that tells the reader a little of what they may get on the inside. It looks like a genre fantasy book, you wouldn’t open this book and expect space ships or a police procedural or a cozy mystery. It tells you what to expect without gimmicks or tricks. It’s a tower with some swirls and color and a bird but it looks slick and professional. You CAN do more with less!”
“[The Hereafter cover] also telegraphs the story a bit; you get the ghostly angle right away. Even though it tells you, it’s still mysterious and draws the potential reader/purchaser closer.”
“[Maps of Hell is] another one that seems almost tactile. I look at this cover and it almost hurts. I don’t think the pages inside are going to be soft and fuzzy.”
After a long career as a journalist – newspaper, magazine, and public relations – Dawn has taken the leap into creative writing. She currently has three books in the works – two novels and a cookbook. As the editor of a professional magazine for educators, she did her own design work and won numerous awards for cover design. Early in 2011, Dawn applied those skills to design eBook covers for some author friends and several web and print ads as well. Now she offers a freelance design service specifically for authors: Book Graphics. Find her on Twitter at @bridgemama, on Facebook as Book Graphics, and on Book Country as snurf.
Book Country Twitter Chat (August 25, 2011)
Crime fiction author Lawrence Block and publicity maven Erin Mitchell chat about why–and how!–writers should interact with their fans.
There are myriad ways for writers to connect with readers these days, but some tactics seem to work better than others. But no matter what track you take, one thing is for sure: interacting with your readers is key. When writers are genuinely involved, when they interact with fans, readers’ dedication always seems to grow.
Erin Mitchell has worked as a book publicity specialist for 25 years, helping authors connect to their readers. She also connects on a personal level through her own blog, as well as participating in the group mystery blog, “Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room.” She also takes part in the growing #FridayReads trend on Twitter.
Lawrence Block is the bestselling crime fiction author of the beloved Matthew Scudder series. His most recent release, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, hit shelves in May 2011. Lawrence has taken to Twitter and e-mail like a fish to water, building his relationships with readers through social media and other online venues.
Here are some of our favorite quotes from the chat:
@ErinFaye: Remember why people subscribe to newsletters: because they love your writing. And want insight into characters, too
@LawrenceBlock: Point to remember: what matters is the writing. if the other gets in the way, maybe it’s not such a Good Idea.
@BrendaCopeland: Readers are the best advocates for authors. Much better than marketing departments. And it all starts with what’s on the page.
@lilysea: I’ve been known to sneakily reposition a twitter acquaintance’s book at the bookstore for better exposure. Feel it’s a “friend”
@ErinFaye: Start with one venue, whether that’s twitter, fb or a blog. Trying to do all at once can be overwhelming
@LawrenceBlock: I answer every email, unless its from a certified PITA.
@Chumplet: My one bookstore signing garnered sales & great conversation. Not easy to set up but I loved it!
If you missed the chat, you can view or download the entire transcript as a PDF here. It will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.
Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start reading on the last page and work your way up to the first page.
Thanks to all who took the time to share their experiences and ask questions.
REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!
Follow us on Twitter for more: @Book_Country