Indie Authors Alert: Crowded Book Market Fall 2021

Fall is always a crowded book market because it leads into the holiday shopping season.  However, this year could be one of the most competitive and expensive for indie authors and publishers.

Expect Delays in Supply Chain

In recent years books by Michelle Obama and Bob Woodward have taken over the market and the paper supply.  The larger traditional publishers order paper in advance.  In 2018 indie authors and smaller presses were faced with delays getting their books printed.  The paper issue has not gotten much better for indies since then, but many have learned to work around the delays.  However, this year, the crowded book market combined with a truck shortage and a labor shortage, make getting supplies and shipping books challenging for printers like Ingram Spark that cater to the indie market.

Increases in Pricing

Have you felt the rise in inflation?  Groceries, gas and materials like lumber, metal and oil have all climbed steadily since January 2021.  Well everyone in the book business is going to feel the pinch as well.  The Independent Book Publishers Association published this brief memo from Ingram explaining that their U.S. prices have increased 6%, not including shipping.  As of November 6, 2021, we can except price changes reflecting this increase to go into effect.

Book Reviewers Overwhelmed

I don’t have any official data to report on reviewers.  I can tell you that we are hearing that reviewers are swamped through December with titles.  One Instagram reviewer mentioned that she had 200 books to review between now and the end of the year.  I’ve said in other blogs that the traditional publishers plan their most splashy and coveted titles for the Fall season and those books will be considered first.

How to Manage a Crowded Book Marketplace

I can offer a few recommendations if you currently have a book planned in the next three months and you have not already been soliciting publicity coverage.

  1. Set a soft publication date where you release the book without the expectation of coverage right now.  Plan for a hard publication date in the first three months of next year to give yourself enough time for reviewers to take a breath.
  2. Completely push publication until Winter 2022.
  3. Whether you soft publish now or wait all together, focus your efforts on your social media and digital marketing.
  4. Do your homework and research other kinds of media and contacts who may want to cover your book in a story or interview.  Some of these contacts might have some openings, especially if they don’t have to read the whole book.
  5. Plan, plan, plan.  Use the time to figure out what kind of traditional strategy you want to have for your book.  Get your review copies ready and start sending them to reviewers (stickered with the publication date) three  to four months ahead of your hard publication date.

Manage Book Sales Expectations

Most of all you need to accept what is possible and what is not, cut your losses, and strategize.  Evaluate the market and the competition for the season and decide how you want to move forward with your marketing and publicity.  Then start taking steps in that direction.

For more information about book publishing and marketing, check out  www.clairemckinneypr.com/blog and

Get Ready to Promote Your Fall 2021 Book

 

 

When should you publish your book? An Infographic

 

 

 

Digital Pitching Tactics for Different Media

As a PR and marketing company one of our most important jobs is writing.  Just because we are good writers does not mean we are going to write the next great American novel, because what we do requires a specific skill set.  In fact, some people equate PR writing with journalism.  We have to create the stories and be persuasive to convince media people to pay attention and write or broadcast what we want to get out there. Different platforms require different things so you would never send a lengthy email style pitch to a person on Instagram.   Twitter needs to be even more brief. Pitches can not be over-the-top, nor should they be dry.  Catch a person’s attention in the first sentence with eye-catching, pithy, and ultimately informative material. Like one of my favorite artists, Public Enemy, says, “Don’t Believe the Hype” –we can’t afford to alienate people by leaning too far in any one direction.   So how do digital pitching tactics differ between emails vs. social media?

Is Your Pitch Too Long?

The most glaring difference in digital pitching tactics is the length that your pitches can be. In email, the short & sweet is applied mostly to the subject line. Once someone has deemed your email important enough to open, it’s likely they’ll read it. There’s a lot of room in the body of an email to write at length about whatever it is you’re trying to pitch. This doesn’t mean you should write a novel, but it does allow the opportunity to append things like press releases or longer summaries. If your initial pitch sells the product well, the reader will usually want some more information. Attachments are a great way to do this.

When you start getting into social media, though, length becomes the enemy. Many platforms have character limits for direct messages (DMs) and people don’t want to read walls of text. For book pitches, I usually try to keep the message to a personalized hello, a short summary of the book and any relevant information about the author. It’s always important to end with a call to action like an invitation to work together or an offer for more information. Being concise and clear about what you’re asking for is vital with strict length limits.

Does Structure Matter?

The structure of a DM pitch is a lot looser, especially once you get to chatting with someone! I would suggest keeping it formal at first and, of course, always remain courteous. But don’t be afraid to “like” someone’s responses or use emojis (sparingly). It’s commonplace on social media and can make you seem more personable. People always like knowing there’s someone real behind the product!

Emails tend to be a lot less casual, almost always beginning with a greeting and ending with a signature. It’s good practice to use more formal language throughout the conversation. This might change a little if you exchange emails with someone regularly, but usually with pitches it is a strictly professional relationship and using language to reflect that is a good idea.

Pacing is Important–Don’t Be a Dirge

Some of the informality of DMs comes from pacing. Often, you will see responses a lot faster on social media than you would expect with email. Because it’s less formal and easily accessible through phones, people usually get back to you quickly if they’re interested in your pitch.  Make sure to do your best to reply in a timely manner as well.

As a tip, keep in mind that if you have a lot of people to pitch via DM you can’t always send out hundreds of messages all at once. Some websites have rate limits and might mark you as a spam account if you try to do too much in a short period of time! Try to limit your new messages to about 15 or 20 an hour.

Don’t Do It Unless You Know How

These are just some things to expect if you’re new to using DMs  and social media to pitch to people. The only real way to get a feel for it is to go out and do it!  And remember most of all you are trying to build relationships between you and the media.  It’s a symbiotic association that should benefit both sides.  Don’t risk the trust of a potential contact, know what proper digital pitching tactics are before you reach out.

If you’d like to read more publicity tips, check out some of our other blogs on the topic!

How Bookstores Work

All new authors want to see their books in bookstores.  Although you do need to have books available for orders, setting your sights on attracting booksellers to your title may not be the best use of your time.  Here are some things you need to know about how bookstores work.

Book Distribution

If your book is available for wholesale purchases on Ingram or in your garage, you can sell to the trade (stores).  But did you know that IF a store wants to stock your book, they might only stock one or two copies at first?  You may be convinced that without bookstores you can’t succeed, but there has got to be a better way.  If you get fifty stores to buy one or two copies you have distributed 50 – 100 books.  For an indie author or press, that method is a ton of work for not so much of a return.

Author Events

Publishers worked around the small orders by setting up big author tours, where a store would normally purchase about 20 copies for a lesser known author’s appearance.  Getting the buyers in the store to purchase them, well that’s another story.  If only two people attend an event, then most of those copies go back to the warehouse.  Big publishers pay for shipping to and from the bookstores and they take returns.

Discounts and Other Protocols

Bookstores require a wholesale discount.  On Ingram, that means discounting your book by 55%.  Ingram gets 15% and the bookstore gets 40%.  Also, you will be asked if you accept returns.  If you do not, then you will not sell wholesale copies to traditional stores.  Amazon is a different story.

Merchandising

Five stores each order two copies of your book.  Where will the copies be?  On the shelf?  Spine out?  How will people see it?  This is where merchandising comes into play.  There are several different options for shelving books including spine out, front cover facing, tables, end-caps, and displays.  All, except for spine out, usually cost money that comes from a publisher’s marketing budget.  It depends on the size of the store and how they choose to merchandise.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bookstores and I’m a browser who might see your book on a shelf–spine out.  But, when you are starting out as an author, especially in the indie world, think of alternative ways to get your books to readers.  You will be dwarfed by the big publishers and authors if you try to start out in the traditional retail marketplace.

Highways and Car Trunks

Here are a couple of examples of authors doing it differently:

E. Lynn Harris was a maverick in many ways.  He wrote ten best-selling books and you know how he started?  He sold books out of the trunk of his car.  A couple of decades ago, Harris was building his army of readers on the ground.

Michael Connelly used to meet a guy on the highway in California.  Michael would sign a couple of hundred copies of his latest hardcover so they could be sold to collectors.  This was a way of marketing and selling to a niche audience that would not be able to find a pristine, cello-wrapped copy in a store.

For more information about bookselling check out our blogs:

“When Promoting a Book is Also About Selling a New Idea”

“How Many Books Should You Be Selling?”

Design 101: Typesetting

There’s a lot of thought that goes into self-publishing. If you’re an author, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to a few key things about your book such as the jacket, the title and the content. If you’re a reader, these are probably the things you regularly pay attention to as well. Have you ever thought about the interior of a book? How the pages are laid out, the margins set up, or the style of the chapter headings?

If you haven’t thought about those things, that means that the person behind the book did a good job typesetting. Typesetting is the process of properly setting the text on to the page of a publication. Bad typesetting can completely ruin the reader’s experience and interrupt the flow of the book. The last thing you’d want is for a reader to stop paying attention to your carefully crafted work because the spacing between lines is uneven!

When self-publishing, you will eventually have to deal with typesetting. Here are some simple dos and don’ts of this book design fundamental:

Don’t think it’s a simple job.

Typesetting on the surface sounds like it would be easy. After all, you have probably used word processors like Google Docs or Microsoft Word before. These programs can handle simple design tasks, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, they can’t handle a book interior. Which leads me to…

Don’t choose the wrong software.

It may be easy to try and make a program like Word work for you- you already own it and are familiar with it. However, word processing programs are not built for typesetting. While they may be able to handle some basics such as kerning, margins, and fonts, they are frustrating to use. Bending a program to try and fit your needs is harder than using a program built for typesetting. I have used Adobe InDesign for typesetting in the past and highly recommend it. Other programs include LaTeX, Reedsy Book Editor, or Bookwright by Blurb. 

Do study up on the basics.

There’s probably a lot of terminology and best practices that you won’t know going in. Typesetting is not easy to do well. I suggest looking over Canva’s illustrated typography terms to get an idea of popular terms. Typography and typesetting are different, but they have a lot of overlap! After that, start reading up on things like font choice or industry standards.

Do consider hiring a professional.

Let’s face it: you’ve got a lot going on already when you’re self-publishing. If you don’t have time to sit down and learn how to typeset properly, it might be best to hire someone. A professional will already have the appropriate software, the knowledge of how to use it effectively, and should be intimately familiar with the best practices. There’s a lot of typesetters out there who have a skillset to match your project. It may cost more than DIY, but the result will be less frustrating and more professional. 

If you found this helpful, check out our other blogs on design and self-publishing.

3 Ways To Use Reels To Promote Your Book

Instagram Reels are one of the best ways to grow on the platform. However, they can be very overwhelming for those who are not familiar with creating video content. Today, I will share with you three Reels ideas you can use to promote your book/profile on Instagram. 

Trends on #BookTok

Did you know that you can follow hashtags? If not, I suggest you do that now. And I would start with #BookTok. Bookstagrammers and authors use #BookTok to showcase content around books and writing. 

Often there are fun and easy Reels trends on this hashtag that do not require you to show your face (if you don’t want to) and require minimal editing. 

Check out one Kelsey Darragh did here.

Give a Brief Explanation

In 15-30 seconds, explain something interesting about you or your book.

Some examples include: 

  • Why you wrote your book
  • Your writer’s journey
  • Any short explanation about a unique aspect of your book

General Reels Trends

Another great way to use reels to promote your book is to jump on general trends. Applying trends to your brand takes a little creativity, but it should be something fun and different. 

Here are a couple of fun examples: 

  • Take this trend for answering questions and apply them to your book or writers journey
  • “You can’t look good in every picture you take” trend but book covers

Other Tips for Using Reels to Promote Your Book

Think of Instagram Reels like a business card. The point is to spread the content far and wide, not overloading your viewer with too much information. 

Do not introduce yourself. In the Reels format, you just do not have the time. This also might not hook your viewer. Instead, lead with educational or entertainment value and have an optimized profile to explain who you are to convert viewers to followers.

Include a call to action. A call to action is an essential part of any content you make that has a purpose (and if you don’t have a goal for the content, why are you making it?). 

For Reels, an excellent call to action in the video itself is to follow you or to download some sort of freebie. 

More Resources for Growing on Instagram

Instagram Reels: A Beginner’s Guide

Instagram Insights: A Beginner’s Guide

Expanding Your Organic Reach on Instagram: Video Content

3 Tips for Growing Your Personal Brand on Instagram