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

 

Digital Marketing: Where PR and Marketing Meet

In many organizations PR and Marketing are not created equal.  Oftentimes PR reports to Marketing. Why?  If you are a public relations professional you know how much your expertise impacts marketing strategies, especially due to the evolution of the digital landscape.  You know where PR and Marketing Meet.

How PR and Marketing are Tied Together

Marketing will handle advertising, design, and copywriting for campaigns.   PR creates stories and messaging from information and research.  Then a publicist or media relations professional will pitch those stories to generate awareness for the brand, product, or individual. PR can do the job using stories on tv, radio, print, and online media.  But, if many people are not watching television news sources, listening to talk radio, or reading newspapers, how does the message get out? According to the Pew Research Center, the largest audience on cable or network news is around 7.5 million for evening, network programs.  Everything else is well below 5 million viewers. Radio World reports that radio listenership is struggling since the pandemic began.  There have been multiple reports on the decrease in traditional newspaper and magazine readership.  Media is more digital and online and this is where PR and Marketing meet.

Digital PR and Why Marketing Needs Us

Public Relations professionals have become much more active creating content for social media and websites.  Content driven social media campaigns are a combination of design efforts from Marketing and  writing from the PR department.  The snappy copy produced in  Marketing is fine for advertising.  But PR people know how to pitch an angle and write the appropriate copy to go along with it.   Also PR people build relationships, which we know is critical for growing a loyal and engaged audience.

Teamwork Leads to Success

So what does it look like when these two departments meet on equal footing?  In an ideal world a team that includes marketing and pr will get together to plan a campaign.  Tasks will be delegated and a structured, executable campaign will result.  Marketing will handle the images and copy, hashtag and competitor research.  It will also have developed a value proposition and target customer(s).  PR  will write blogs, articles, and social media copy.  These professionals will plan a media strategy that includes social platforms and content, plan events, and train spokespeople.

Like me, some PR people are full on Marketers.  In the end we all are determining what motivates people and why they do what they do.  In a sense, people watching and that’s the fun part.

For more information on marketing and pr visit our blog and check out:

Marketing is Not Public Relations

 

 

 

Accessible Design: UI Choices

Accessibility in design, when presented online, extends far beyond the visuals. My last two blog posts in this series focused on color choice and font choice. This post will focus on some more technical aspects of accessibility. These have more to do with user interface, or UI, design and accessibility. Good UI can make or break how some people interact with your content.

UI Essential: Alt-text

I briefly brought up the use of screen readers when I wrote about font choice. Screen readers are a tool that visually impaired users may rely on to navigate the web. Their name is self-explanatory; screen readers read text aloud for users who cannot read. However, text is usually the only thing that screen readers pick up on. They cannot interpret pictures. If you want a user to know what is presented in an image, then you need to use something called “alt-text”. Alt-text is found either in the metadata of an image or in the caption of an image. Some website managers allow you to add this metadata when you upload an image. If you use WordPress, for example, you may have even noticed a box labeled “alt-text” when you upload images.

It is useful to provide alt-text for any non-decorative images. For instance, if a restaurant’s website has an image of their menu uploaded, the alt-text should list off the items on the menu. The same goes for charts or diagrams that rely on visual elements. Otherwise, the information will be inaccessible to a user with a screen reader. With images that don’t have text, you can provide a description. Aim to be as descriptive and concise as possible. A user doesn’t need every little detail, but adding some flair is nice. Using proper alt-text conveys valuable information and makes for a more inclusive experience. If you’d like to include alt-text in social media, you can do so in the description or caption of your image-based posts. It won’t affect the metadata of the uploaded image, but a screen reader will catch it.

Keyboard Access

Making a website keyboard accessible is another technical design element. Many users, both with and without disabilities, rely solely on their keyboard to use their computers. It can be a very efficient way to complete a workflow. It is important that your web page follows some basic, standard commands. For instance, every element should be selectable using the tab key and either the space bar or the enter key should activate an element. These are just a couple examples. For a much more thorough guide, you can consult with WebAIM’s guidelines for keyboard accessibility. 

This one can be a bit harder to implement on social media since you don’t own those domains and can’t edit the code. How accessible those websites are is largely out of your control. However, many people do create their own blogs and websites. If you have a website, keep this in mind when selecting a pre-made theme or customizing one through code.  

I hope this has made you more aware of some of the ways people use the web. Remember that it is, however, only a small sample of the ways you can make things more accessible. The more you think about unique user cases, the more accessible you can make your content!