Divider

Companion Audio Strategy for The Unwinding of the Miracle (Penguin Random House)

Julie Yip Williams, author of The Unwinding of the Miracle, knew she would never see whether readers liked her book. The Unwinding of the Miracle shares Yip Williams’s experiences and thoughts as she approached her death from colon cancer. Through the book she wonders about what the lives of her husband and daughters will look like, and finds the miraculous in the most universal human experience — death. Published posthumously on Feb. 5 by Random House, The Unwinding of the Miracle is a New York Times bestseller.

The team at Random House helped raise the memoir’s profile through a unique audio strategy. Beyond typical plans to advertise on podcasts, they decided to take it a step further for the release of The Unwinding of the Miracle. In collaboration with Pineapple Street Media, Random House created a 4-episode companion podcast, Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle.

The podcast featured audio interviews with Yip Williams as well as audio from some of the last visits her family had with her before her death. Listeners could hear Yip Williams talking about how she decorated her bedroom so that she’d have somewhere beautiful to die and making plans to haunt her family members. In the final episode, the surviving family members and friends talk about the ways that they feel Yip Williams’s presence after her death.

As of February 27, 2 weeks after the final episode was released, the podcast ranks number 51 for all Health podcasts on iTunes, with over 600 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars. The podcast was featured on Call Yr Girlfriend through a sponsorship from Pineapple Street Media and on All Things Considered.

Investing in a collaboration with expert podcasters resulted in a well-paced and compelling narrative with high production values. Pineapple Street Media is a well-established podcasting company. They produce, among other shows, Still Processing from the New York Times and were behind the chart-topping Missing Richard Simmons. Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle’s producer Eleanor Kagan comes from a well-established audio background, having worked previously for both NPR and Buzzfeed.

We chatted with Leigh Marchant, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Random House about Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle and their companion audio strategy.

How did you decide to create a podcast for The Unwinding of the Miracle?

Our Random House Editor-in-Chief, Andy Ward, and I had been talking about doing a podcast with our mutual contact, Max Linsky, from Pineapple Street Media. As all great projects start, we pitched him a few ideas over lunch and decided that Julie’s story would make for an incredibly compelling podcast. We thought having Julie’s story told in both book form and via podcast would be a really interesting project—that instead of being restricted by only telling this story in one format, we could have them complement and inform each other.

What kinds of audiences were you hoping to access with the podcast?

We think that podcast listeners are readers, and readers are podcast listeners. We have seen some consumer insights reports that show media affinities for some of our authors and titles, and podcasts are definitely included in there. Of course, certain podcasts appear more frequently in our data than others but we do think there is listener/reader overlap.

So we were hoping to draw attention to the book through the podcast audience – and vice versa. The two projects – the podcast and the book – are meant to be complementary. In other words, if you read the book, you will want to hear more from Julie and her family and friends through the podcast. And if you listen to the podcast, you’ll want more in the book. Both the podcast and the reading experience deliver in such a strong way. The content of the two projects is actually different but together provides an incredible understanding of what Julie and those who are terminally ill are grappling with.

Both the podcast and the reading experience deliver in such a strong way. The content of the two projects is actually different but together provides an incredible understanding of what Julie and those who are terminally ill are grappling with.

How is that audience different from — or the same as — the audience you were connecting with through other parts of the campaign?

We are always looking to reach readers through our campaigns and one of the ways we do that is actually via podcast advertising! So creating the podcast was a great way to reach some of our target audience. We were hoping to reach readers of books like When Breath Becomes Air, The Middle Place and The Bright Hour. Also we targeted readers of medical memoirs, followers of Julie’s blog, as well as parents.

But of course the goal for any book is to reach the right readers and we knew that if we could capture an expanded audience via the podcast, they would likely be interested in the book as well.

How did you balance creating a rich and emotionally resonant podcast with leaving enough unanswered for the listener so that they would want to read the memoir?

That was a main concern at the start of the project. We didn’t want to cannibalize either project so we were careful to keep the content different enough, yet complementary. In the podcast, you hear from Julie’s family and friends. The book is just Julie’s words and thoughts. The two forms work so well together though. Each project is so powerful, so moving, so compelling. But together they offer such a complete portrait of Julie’s incredible life and, later, her battle with cancer.

How does companion audio fit into your strategies for other titles?

We are always looking for new ways to reach readers – on whatever platform they are consuming content. Podcasts are a great way to do that and we will continue to explore opportunities in that space – when it makes sense. We have a number of other podcasts through our corporate group coming. But we’re also exploring other multi-media platforms, as well. We also just launched an Alexa Skill called Good Vibes. Our goal is to connect readers (and listeners) to great books via the platforms where they are already consuming content.


Be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights for more strategies from successful marketing campaigns, audio coverage, and more!

Divider

Future of Publishing Panel Takeaways

Data-driven discovery and trend predictions, plus what success looks like for books in 2019

On Thursday, March 7, NetGalley attended Centennial College’s Future of Media panel in Toronto. This mini conference features a larger discussion about the media landscape, with a specific panel to focus on publishing. With moderator Manu Vishwanath of Harlequin, the Future of Publishing panelists talked about how to incorporate data into decision-making and how to think about gaining the attention of an audience with limited time and budgets in an oversaturated media landscape. Here are some of the takeaways that we’re bringing with us into the future.

Panelists

  • Cory Beatty, Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada
  • Noah Genner, Director of BookNet Canada
  • Nathan Maharaj, Senior Director of Merchandising at Kobo
  • Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth and Development at NetGalley
  • Léonicka Valcius, Assistant Agent at the Transatlantic Agency

The Future of Discovery

At NetGalley, discovery is one of our favorite words. Connecting readers with new books and new authors is the name of our game, and the panelists were just as passionate about this topic as we are.

While discovering the “next big thing” has always been a publisher’s dream, the reality of this actually happening seems to be getting slimmer every year. Not only are there more publishers who are publishing more books, there are hundreds of thousands of books being self published, and the global marketplace seems to promise that anyone with a talent for writing can make big on their own under the right circumstances. But publishers and authors need to work extra hard to retain a reader’s attention. The panelists discussed the pressing question: How?

Director of BookNet Canada Noah Genner opened up this conversation with data. He noted that leisure spending has not gone up and neither has the rate of leisure reading. This means that readers are struggling to prioritize enormous amounts of content without the time or money to spend on it.

To combat this, Genner told the audience that it’s more important than ever for publishers to have a voice and a brand that stands above the rest. Whether this means developing a niche, like Second Story Press, whose books with strong female leads and themes of social justice sets them apart, or running a smart and snappy Twitter account like Coach House Books, it’s your brand–not necessarily the next blockbuster book–that keeps readers returning for more.

Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth and Development here at NetGalley, added that in order to make your book succeed, it’s crucial to not just look at a variety of KPI’s and early data, but to actually make time to understand it. There will always be multiple points of data that can be collected pre-publication–like the information on NetGalley’s Title Feedback Activity Page–but without taking the time to understand that data and change your plans based on what you learned, it’s never going to make an impact on the success of your book.

Focusing on the end users, Senior Director of Merchandising at Kobo Nathan Maharaj said that publishers should focus more clearly on appealing to readers who don’t have time to sit down for focused reading, through audio. Audiobooks can help rope in customers that don’t necessarily have the leisure time, but are still interested in the story format and do have the leisure money to spend on books.

The Future of Book Trends

On a panel predicting the future of publishing, it’s only natural that the conversation steered toward predicting future trends. Léonicka Valcius, Assistant Agent at the Transatlantic Agency, said that books are a cultural artifact that reflects society as a whole, and by reflecting on the events of today we can predict what trends will pop up in the next few years.

Take, for example, the dystopias of yesterday which became popular as the world experienced great political and economic upheaval. Now, we’re seeing a surge of “up-lit”, which emphasizes kindness, empathy, and happy endings. As consumers, we’re now looking for books that show us the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Valcius also praised the data when trying to hone in on the trends of tomorrow. With all of the data that’s available to us digitally, finding what works is the challenge–but also the opportunity. While we may have a book that will only sell 200 copies throughout its lifecycle, with that data we can now predict what type of reader will buy those 200 copies and market accordingly.

The Future of Success

It is, of course, every publisher’s and author’s goal to see their books succeed. However, as Noah Genner was quick to point out, there are different  kinds of success, and it’s important for anyone in the publishing industry to evaluate their standard for what success means.

Senior Director of Marketing and Publicity at HarperCollins Canada Cory Beatty said that he regularly needs to set expectations with the authors he works with. Sometimes authors may be frustrated that their books aren’t immediately being buzzed about in major newspapers, and yet the marketing team for said book has been celebrating for weeks at the successes it has seen, whether hitting modest sales goals or generating consumer interest on Goodreads.

Kristina Radke returned to the data conversation, piggy-backing on the ideas about anticipating trends. Modern capabilities are making it easier for new players to join the game. For instance, Wattpad Books is launching a new imprint that will use machine learning to help predict the next hit story and further develop content from their site.


Keep up with the rest NetGalley Insights coverage of industry events, plus publishing trends and interviews, by subscribing to our weekly newsletter!

Divider

Ask a Librarian: Charmaine Atrooshi

Putting your titles in the hands of librarians is an important part of any book’s success story. Librarians build collections for their library branch, pick titles for their own reading groups, and were the original comp-title recommendation engines before the age of algorithms. Librarians are book advocates in their community and beyond!

In our Ask A Librarian series, we ask librarians on NetGalley about what makes their community special, what they read, and how they stay up to date with the best new titles for their patrons.

Ottawa Public Librarian Charmaine Atrooshi describes her community of patrons who visit North America’s largest English/French bilingual library and use its Homebound Services program. She also gives us an inside look at how she uses NetGalley, and which resources she uses to keep up with new titles that she can recommend to her patrons.

What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection?

I use NetGalley and BNC Catalist to find new books to recommend to customers, as well as the Loan Stars lists! I love that library staff all over Canada can vote for their favorite upcoming titles, and that these lists are released monthly!  I also like to browse our catalogue (BiblioCommons) for items on order, and I try to browse some of the staff lists within for ideas.

In addition, NoveList and Books & Authors [formerly What Do I Read Next?] are great databases to use when looking for read-alikes, reviews, and recommendations.

*BNC Catalist is a NetGalley Partner. If a book is in both systems, the NetGalley link automatically appears in Catalist.

What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley?

I have some favorite publishers and auto approvals so that is often a first place I check when quickly searching for new books.  Depending on what mood I am in, or what area of readers’ advisory I am looking to strengthen, I will search by categories for a specific genre and browse the options available.  

What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books?

The cover and title are certainly something that draw my initial interest. I admit, I am guilty of judging a book by its cover! If looks good I will read the description to see if it is something that would appeal to me or to library customers.  The cover of The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox was one that really appealed to me, as well as The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I read and really enjoyed both of those and can see why both have such strong appeal!

Even if I don’t end up requesting a title, reading blurbs and looking at covers helps to keep me abreast of trends in publishing, read-alikes, and new releases, which is always helpful!

Even if I don’t end up requesting a title, reading blurbs and looking at covers helps to keep me abreast of trends in publishing, read-alikes, and new releases, which is always helpful!

Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services:

My permanent position is in the Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library.  We select and deliver library materials to customers who have difficulty accessing a library branch on a regular basis.  Our customer base consists primarily of older adults, and customers with disabilities.

Currently, I am working temporarily as the adult librarian at the Nepean Centrepointe (NC) branch.  NC is the second largest branch of the Ottawa Public Library, and it is located in the Ben Franklin Complex, which is also home to Centrepointe Theatre, and a City of Ottawa Client Service Centre. It is also just down the street from Algonquin College.   

On average, NC sees between 900 and 1,300 customers a day; a mixture of children, teens, adults, and older adults. Nepean Centrepointe offers a large range of programs from book clubs, to storytimes to Dungeons and Dragons evenings!  It also houses materials in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Hindi – in addition to –English and French, which is reflective of the languages of the community (world language collections are based upon census data).

What resources or programs make your library unique?

Homebound Services is unique in the sense that it literally brings the library into your home and provides a team of staff who are well-versed in readers’ advisory and spend the majority of their time in the realm of readers’ advisory and materials selection.  One more unique fact is that we talk with the majority of our customers via telephone!

Nepean Centrepointe houses OPL’s Imagine Space where customers can come to create and collaborate using 3D printers, laser cutters, photo/video editing stations, green screens/video gear, as well as various hand and electronic tools.  NC also houses the Sunlife Financial Musical Lending Library, along with our main branch.  Customers can borrow instruments such as keyboards, guitars, banjos, mandolins, bongos, ukuleles, violins etc.

Fun fact about the Ottawa Public Library– it is the largest bilingual (English/French) library in North America!

Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in?

Popular areas of interest for Homebound customers are family sagas and mysteries, as well as biographies of ‘the average person’. We get many requests for Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Kristin Hannah, P.D. James and Anne Perry to name a few.

At the NC branch, nonfiction materials circulate the most (more than double general fiction and mysteries put together!).  Staff have really great displays in the nonfiction section which make it hard to walk by without grabbing one (or two). Currently, my favorite displays are “Vintage Hollywood,” “Dropping Names,” “faerie tales are Grimm” and the new cookbook display that offers a quick pick option.

What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print?

In terms of Homebound customers, the majority are print material users. There is an increase, however, in questions about downloadable materials, with tablet devices such as iPads becoming more popular and customers starting to explore the possibilities within these devices.  We have had an increase in requests for assistance in setting up their devices in order to borrow library e-materials.

The Ottawa Public Library offers various online resources for customer use such as Overdrive (e-books and audiobooks), CloudLibrary (express e-books) and RB Digital (magazines and audiobooks). We also offers appointments for customers looking for assistance with downloading library materials.

Based upon a snapshot from this past June at Nepean Centrepointe, approximately 20% of NC customers borrowed digital materials, 70% borrowed print, and 10% borrowed both.


Read the rest of our Ask a Librarian series, plus learn more about librarians’ use of social media with The Librarian Twitterverse.

Divider

7 Tips on Polishing Your Query from a Senior Literary Agent

As a Senior Agent at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency, I’ve read and reviewed thousands of queries. Yes, thousands, and possibly tens of thousands! Since my query inbox first opened, I’ve had the opportunity read some amazing queries, and some that could have benefitted from the following these tips on polishing and personalizing your query.

1. Send individualized queries

It will take more time, but this is an important relationship. You are hopefully going to be partnered with an agent for years, so just like with any other long term relationship you want to build strong foundations. This means at the very least addressing the agent by their name with the correct spelling and with the correct title if you choose to [address them by their] surname.

Additionally, if you happen to typo, that’s okay, it happens! Feel free to follow up with a quick correction after you hit send. Or if you’re querying via a portal, you should have the ability to withdraw your submission and then re-submit with the corrected form of address.

I promise you it will be worth it.

2. Read lots of query letters

To the Google!! Authors writing in all kinds of genres have shared their query letters, and agents have also shared sample query letters. Find them. Read them. The more you read the more you’ll be able to sort out what format would work best for your book and your genre.

Also note that while their are similarities between fiction and nonfiction queries, they are different.

3. Query letters are like the writer’s version of the middle school five-paragraph essay Here’s a quick cheat sheet of what each of those five paragraphs can contain. Remember, you can shorten as you see fit and [be sure] to personalize it.

Introductory Paragraph: This should introduce yourself and your work. Be sure to include genre and word count.

Three Body Paragraphs: You don’t have to have three, but I find it’s a solid set of paragraphs for you to talk about your book. Try to hone this “about section” think of it as similar to the text you can find on the back of a book’s cover or on the flap of a dust jacket.

Conclusion Paragraph: This closing paragraph is where you can share a bit about yourself. Think of it as your bio. Feel free to include any accolades for your writing that you might have, any professional writing organizations, or fun facts. Also include how you can be contacted if you haven’t included that info in a signature block, or some submission form.

4. Less is more

I know it may be tempting to share as much as possible about your work, but I always say that if an author could share everything they wanted in a pitch about their book then why would they then write an 80,000 word novel? So, know that we want to get to your book and your pages. Don’t keep us hostage in your query letter! Instead, use your query letter as a springboard for us to dive into your book and/or submission materials. Your pitch should pique interest and lead the reader (agent or editor) to you pages! Ultimately your book, your work, your story is what’s most important.

5. Have a friend, family member, or colleague read your query

Be open to editorial feedback. It is helpful to have someone familiar with the querying process to proofread your query letter. But, no matter what, another set of eyes will help catch the small things like the typos that our brains like to gloss over. And then, thoughtfully consider their feedback. Ultimately, you have to make the final decision on what you are going to send out, but most of the people you ask for help aren’t making suggestions just for the sake of it. Really consider their edits, and be sure to appreciate and value the time they’ve taken out of their day to spend on reviewing your query letter.

6. Ask a critique partner to help you draft a query letter

Oftentimes it’s difficult for an author to synthesize their work into a one-page pitch. If you have a trusted critique partner, they can sometimes help draft a few paragraphs to get you started. Of course, you might then owe them chocolate or whatever delicious treat they might desire. But this is an option I’ve had several of my authors mention they used when querying me! Seeing how others frame your work after reading and working on it with you might be helpful. You should never pressure or guilt critique partners or beta readers into helping you draft your query. Ask. And if they decline, that’s okay!

There are also freelance editors out in the world that might also offer these services, and you can totally pursue those options as well. But when money is involved and exchanging hands that’s a personal choice. And always make sure you vet any freelancers you might choose to work with. Do your research, folks!

7. Make sure that when you’re submitting to an agent that they do indeed work with the type of projects that you’re sending

While an agent might seem really cool in interviews or on social media, you’ll be wasting their time and your time by querying them with a project that they do not work on. Save yourself!

Good luck!

Sarah E. Younger, Senior Agent, at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency began her career in publishing at Press53 in Winston Salem, N.C. after receiving her undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She later attended the University of Denver’s graduate publishing program where upon completion she moved to New York City.  Sarah joined the Nancy Yost Literary Agency in the fall of 2011 and has since cultivated a diverse and talented list of authors including a variety of commercial fiction and select non-fiction titles. She is specifically interested in representing all varieties of romance, women’s fiction including chicklit and romantic comedies, adult science fiction and fantasy, and very select non-fiction. You can find her on her personal Twitter @seyitsme. Learn more about the Nancy Yost Literary Agency including how to query Sarah by visiting the NYLA website.

Divider

Ask a Podcaster: Books & Boba

Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fan bases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.

Name: Reera Yoo & Marvin Yuen

Show: Books & Boba

Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month, hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.

What should book publishers know about your audience?

Marvin: They are a diverse group of readers, and not necessarily all Asian-American. Our listeners range from Asians from across the diaspora (including the UK, Oceana, and expats) and non-Asian readers who are interested in different perspectives in the books they read. Those that follow us are generally interested in our focus on Asian authors, representation in media, and own-voices narratives.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?

Reera: We have a Goodreads list of books that our audience recommend us. We try our best to alternate genres and feature different representatives of the Asian diaspora experience.

Marvin: We make it pretty clear in our podcast opening that we focus on books written by Asian and Asian diaspora writers. We have been more flexible in terms of the genres we cover and have read both fiction and non-fiction novels, and everything from contemporary thrillers to regent-era historical fantasy.

What do you love best about your audience?

Reera: I love their passion and enthusiasm for Asian and Asian American literature. Many of our listeners are avid readers who have felt frustrated by the lack of diverse representation in publishing. Some are from countries where it is particularly difficult to find books by authors of color. So, it’s always wonderful to see their excitement in learning about upcoming and undiscovered books by Asian and Asian American authors.

Marvin: It’s always great to see new listeners who discover new books through our podcast, but I’m especially excited when our members engage with us on our Goodreads forums. Part of what we want to build at Books & Boba is a community of readers who are excited about the breadth of narratives coming from Asian authors.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers and for cultural commentary?

Reera: Reading is often a solitary activity. When you finish a book and feel your outlook on the world shift, it can be disappointing when you don’t have anyone to share your experience with. I think literature podcasts make the reading experience more intimate and less lonely. It’s like being in a book club with your friends, only you don’t have to go through the hassle of scheduling.

Marvin: I think podcasts in general are a great medium because listening can be a passive activity, so our listeners can listen to us discuss books while driving or working on something else, so you can be productive and learn stuff. Podcasts maximize efficiency!

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?

Reera: We often look through our list of forthcoming books by authors of Asian descent and search on NetGalley if they are available. We also consult [NetGalley newsletters] to see if there are any new books we might be interested in reading for our book club.

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?

Reera: We’re very excited by the surge of sci-fi and fantasy novels by marginalized authors. It’s fascinating to see how these authors are injecting their heritage and changing how we see race, gender, and sexuality in sci-fi and fantasy.

Marvin: Like Reera, I’m excited in the emergence of speculative fiction from Asian and other authors from traditionally marginalized communities. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the classics and family dramas about intergenerational issues and immigrant struggles, but seeing fantasy inspired by the Three Kingdoms era and science fiction that uses Eastern concepts as more than just window dressing will always bring a tear to my eye.

What podcasts are you listening to?

Reera: Since we are a part of the Potuck Podcast Collective, we listen to a lot of our fellow members’ podcasts, which include Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, They Call Us Bruce, Korean Drama Podcast, and KollabCast.

Some book-related podcasts we like to listen to are First Draft, Book Riot, Minorities in Publishing, and 88 Cups of Tea.

Marvin: In addition to producing several podcasts (including Books & Boba), I also listen to a lot of (too many really) podcasts! Speaking of book clubs, I follow the granddaddy of book club podcasts Sword & Laser, I also listen to pop culture discussion podcasts like Pop Rocket and Pop Culture Happy Hour, comedy podcasts like Hello from the Magic Tavern, and anything from the McElroy family, and of course our fellow podcasts from the Potluck Podcast Collective!

Follow Books & Boba on their website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads.

And be sure to check out our whole Ask a Podcaster series!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length

Divider

The Importance of Publisher Podcasting with Candlewick Press Presents

For Candlewick Press’s 25th anniversary, they decided to make a podcast that gave listeners a peek behind the curtain of the house that gave them Judy Moody, Because of Winn-Dixie, Where’s Waldo? and more. Candlewick Press Presents gained thousands of listeners during its limited run in 2017, and it’s still getting plays from industry hopefuls as well as book lovers.

In this guest post, Ally Russell from Candlewick Press describes how a traditional publisher got into the podcasting game and how it benefited from connecting with its audience in a new way.

A Learning Experience

Publishing is a fairly small and exclusive community, and many people want to know how others broke into the industry. Some readers just want an answer to a simpler but equally complicated question: How are books made? Giving people insight into the journeys of successful book creators and providing them with details on the publication of particular books gives them tools to use on their own publishing paths and a deeper appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes.

One of the most exciting pieces of information we’ve come across since the release of Candlewick Press Presents is that our podcast has been used in college classrooms as a teaching tool. At least two college instructors have required their students to listen to episodes of the show to gain a better understanding of the book publication process. We’ve always aimed to help educators use our books in the classroom, so having the podcast used as a supplementary teaching material was a huge measure of success for Candlewick.

We use the Candlewick podcast to give our readers insight and entertainment. We tell new stories — stories that wouldn’t work in a traditional book format. It’s true that the Internet has forced publishers to adapt and find new ways of putting books into the hands of readers, but it has also allowed us to broadcast stories into the heads and hearts of millions of listeners.

We’re still book people, but now we’re also in the business of oral storytelling.

Initially, we weren’t sure if our readers would be receptive to a different kind of storytelling from Candlewick Press. However, the publishing industry has had to adapt to the digital age, and reaching readers beyond bookstores is something that we feel passionately about. So we dipped our metaphorical toes into the world of podcasting. We could only hope that our listeners would enjoy the stories from behind the scenes as much as they enjoy reading the stories printed on the pages.

We’re book people. We spend our days looking closely at text and illustrations, but we had to learn to listen closely to audio recordings to eliminate extraneous noises (which were almost always children from the daycare next door pattering their tiny hands on our windows during their afternoon walks). We know how to produce and market beautiful books, but we had to learn how to present and promote the creators of those books. We know how to tell stories on paper, but we had to figure out how to tell them in a podcast.

We spent months completing logistical work: Choosing a podcast name, purchasing a domain name, designing a logo, and testing recording equipment in our “studio” (which is really just a small conference room named after one of our most beloved book characters, Maisy).

Creating and Launching Candlewick Press Presents

For the launch of the podcast, we had to curate a list of locals from our roster of brilliant talent who would be willing to help us on our journey into the world of nonfiction audio storytelling. The task was particularly difficult because we wanted to choose authors and illustrators who represent the broad spectrum of books we publish. We brought in picture book illustrators Ekua Holmes and Scott Magoon and wordless picture book storytellers Aaron Becker and Ethan and Vita Murrow. We included board book and interactive activity book creator Jannie Ho and middle-grade fiction author Teresa Flavin. We also invited nonfiction storyteller Martin W. Sandler as well as two creators who are skilled at spinning tales of both fiction and nonfiction for various ages, author/illustrator Annette LeBlanc Cate and author/poet Lesléa Newman. Annie Cardi and anthology editors Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant covered YA books. Finally, we rounded out the list with picture book creator Matt Tavares and YA author M. T. Anderson, who have been publishing with Candlewick Press for almost as long as our doors have been open.

In May 2017, after months of research, interviewing, and editing, Candlewick Press Presents launched! The podcast aired weekly between June 8 and August 31. The show was available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. During its first week, the podcast picked up almost 500  downloads. Within its first month, almost 2,000 downloads. As the weeks went on and with each new episode, the program gained steam.

Within six months of airing, our podcast was picked up by Spotify. At the time, Spotify was relatively selective about their podcast content, so it was an honor to be included in their offering of shows. Red Tricycle’s website — which has 1 million unique visitors per month — named Candlewick Press Presents one of 5 Cool Podcasts to Try on Your Next Road Trip. In addition to other media outlets taking notice of our show, we learned that our podcast was being listened to all over the world, including in Australia, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, Japan, and Argentina.

The biggest hurdle for any podcast is acquiring ratings and reviews, and we haven’t been able to gauge the success of the show based on those. However, we know it has been a success because we’ve managed to hit 10k downloads in just over one year, even with an irregular, somewhat unpredictable schedule in 2018.

Value of Candlewick Press Presents

Here’s why we think readers will continue to seek out and listen to Candlewick Press Presents:

Behind-the-Scenes Peeks at Candlewick Press:

Isn’t it every reader’s dream to see where and how their favorite books were created? We’ve had local readers stop by our office and ask for a tour. There’s a reason that some of our most popular social media posts are photos that feature our office and staff: readers want to know! Candlewick Press Presents throws back the curtain and gives readers a glimpse into the world of publishing. The show is recorded right in our office in Somerville, MA, and it invites readers to join the experience that Candlewick employees and book creators are part of every day.

Background Information on Celebrated Authors and Illustrators:

Many of the guests on Candlewick Press Presents have been interviewed by other media outlets, but what makes the Candlewick podcast so engaging is the wealth of background information that we’re able to collect about our authors and illustrators and the publishing process of each book. We thread each discussion with funny anecdotes about the guests and interesting facts about the publication of certain books — information that only our staff could provide. Without background information from editors, book designers, and publicists, our listeners wouldn’t know about Scott Magoon’s impeccable singing voice or the story behind M. T. Anderson’s first manuscript.

Ally Russell is the consumer outreach specialist at Candlewick Press. She works to develop long-lasting, impactful relationships with organizations, and connect with consumers. She is the host of Candlewick Press Presents.

Divider

How to Pitch: Kelly Gallucci, Executive Editor of Bookish.com

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of Bookish.com, where she oversees Bookish’s editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors like Colleen Hoover, Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, and Julie C. Dao.

As the editor of this popular site, she gets pitched a lot of books to consider for features, interviews, inclusion in lists, and the like. Below, she shares some tips about how to approach pitches, based on her experience receiving them.

Give us a sense of the volume of pitch emails you receive. How do these fit into your overall workflow and help you build your editorial calendar?

My inbox is my personal Everest. I’d estimate that I receive roughly 100 emails a day, give or take, though not all of those are pitches. There’s definitely an ebb and flow depending on the day of the week and the season of the year.

Our editorial calendar is first shaped by recurring features (such as our book club recommendations, monthly Bookish bingo, and our seasonal roundups). The next step is to fill in any features that our team wants to work on. While writing those in, we leave room for articles inspired by publicity pitches, such as interviews and author guest posts.

Sometimes books pitched to us will fit into features we’re already crafting (a romance book pitched while we’re writing a holiday romance listicle), or they’ll inspire features we want to work on in the future. I also like to leave room for author guest posts, where authors share a short essay or a list of book recommendations. This gives our readers more insight into the author and their work, and lets us profile their book more directly.

What are the most successful ways that people have contacted you with a pitch? What are pitfalls that might make a pitch less successful with you? Feel free to include specifics.

The best pitch emails are the ones where a publicist shares an idea for an author guest post or predicts the kind of content the book would be best suited for. This makes it easier to envision where the article would fit into our calendar.

As for pitfalls, the big one is pitching us for content we don’t feature. For example, I receive a lot of pitches asking for us to review a book, but we don’t do book reviews on Bookish. Similarly, I receive a lot of requests for interviews. Interviewing authors is one of my personal favorite parts of my job, but they can be tricky for our audience. You have to work twice as hard to motivate a reader to click into an interview with an author they’re unfamiliar with. If an author has a strong online community, we can tap into that. If not, I’ll often see if the author is available for a different type of feature instead. A lot of this depends on the author’s availability, but I always appreciate publicists who are willing to think outside of the box with me when it comes to how to feature books.

Describe the relationships you have built with publicists and authors who regularly pitch you. How have publicists been able to earn your ear and your trust?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many brilliant and talented publicists over the years. Their creativity and drive never cease to amaze me.

The ones I rely on most are the ones who take the time to truly understand Bookish. They read our articles. They know the content we do and do not cover. They pay attention to the genres we feature most frequently. Basically, they do their homework. As a result, their pitches are refined and reflective of the content that does well for Bookish. When I see an email from them in my inbox, I know the book they’re pitching will be a good fit for us.

I also always appreciate the publicists who ask questions, especially if we haven’t had the opportunity to work together for long. I’m always happy to hop on the phone or fire off an email that can explore in detail the kind of content we cover, what does and doesn’t perform well, who our audience is, and more. When I receive a pitch, I’m never just thinking about the book. I’m considering all of those other factors too.

When digging through your inbox, what kinds of subject lines catch your eye? What details are important right up front?

I think the best subject lines are concise and direct. In my inbox right now, there’s an email with the subject “Cover Reveal for Bookish.” That’s excellent. I know exactly what I’m clicking into, and it alerts me to the fact that this is a more time-sensitive email. Another one I’ve spotted is “February’s Most-Anticipated Read” followed by the book title and author name. I now know the book, the time frame, and the angle.

On the other hand, I see a lot of emails that try to offer too much information upfront. An example from my inbox at the moment would be “New Standalone Novel From NYT Bestselling Historical Fiction Author” and the rest of the subject (the book title, author’s name) are cut off. The lede is buried here, and at first glance all I really know is the genre.

How do you feel about follow-ups from publicists? Is there a timeframe that works well for you if they haven’t heard back? What is important to you in a follow-up from a publicist?

My inbox is a dragon and it hoards emails like they’re gold. Follow-ups often work really well for me because they help to bring the email back to the top of my inbox.

The ideal timing varies. I don’t mind if a publicist follows up on a time-sensitive email the following day. For general pitches, following up a week or even weeks later is helpful, particularly if the pub date is still a healthy distance away.

A longer time between follow-ups also means that there’s more potential for new information to have come out, and that’s something I’m always looking for in those emails. Has anything changed since the first pitch (news, reviews, blurbs, etc.)?

What is one pet peeve (or pet pleasure!) that you have about pitch emails?

My pet peeve is definitely when emails don’t contain enough information. It’s most helpful for me when the author, book title, genre, and pub date are as up-front and clear as possible.

I’ll also add, and this isn’t related to pitches, that it’s extremely helpful when authors list their publicist on their website. It’s one of the places we check if we’re looking to contact a publicist we haven’t worked with before, but most authors only list an agent.

As for pet pleasure, it’s always a joy to open an email where a publicist references projects we’ve worked on in the past, books I’ve enjoyed from them, and other personal touches. To be clear, I’m all for form emails. Publicists are juggling multiple books and authors, and I support anything that makes their lives a bit easier. But personal touches at the beginning of those emails are always just a nice thing to see during my day.

Follow Bookish on their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Divider

Ask a Book Club: Anne Haag

Book clubs are full of passionate readers who go out and buy books throughout the year. They are always on the hunt for new titles to read, and are recommendation engines for the family and friends outside of the club. In Ask A Book Club, we help you better understand how book clubs find the books they read, and where they talk about books beyond their club. We look at individual book clubs to learn more about what they look for in a book and how groups of passionate readers come together to choose their titles.

Today, we’re talking to Anne Haag about her globe-trotting book club.

About the book club

A friend decided she wanted to start a book club in the model of her grandfather’s group, which meets monthly and reads a book focusing on a different country each time. So, she invited a few friends to join, and it webbed out from there. Quite a few of our members were born or raised in other countries. We have members from Indonesia, Spain, Canada, England, and Ireland, so we have a variety of international perspectives present at each meeting. There are about 10 of us, all in our mid-20s. We live in Chicago and meet once a month.

Reading scope

We try to read a book by an author from a different country each month. A lot of the books we read involve some kind of historical conflict or element tied to a certain place – for example, the slave trade’s impact on Ghana in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, or religious fundamentalism as it manifests in Pakistan in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. By focusing on a different country each time, we are able to expand our understanding of global conflicts, and how they influence our world today. We do occasionally indulge in lighter works when we need a break. Last summer, for example, we read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

We read quite a few works in translation. We skew towards fiction, but have read nonfiction, like Caitlin Doughty’s exploration of death across different cultures, From Here to Eternity. Most of the titles we’ve read were published within the last 20 years. We try to stick to shorter books; usually around 200 pages. I am guilty of not finishing more than one book when it lost my interest. We read The Double by Jose Saramago, and quite a few others joined me in the “easily disinterested” ranks.   

Finding new titles

I always look for ideas in the New Yorker, specifically the short reviews they publish at the end of each issue’s featured book review. That has come up previously as a source others have used as well. In fact, two of us recommended Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada after reading about in the New Yorker. Book reviews in the New York Times are another common source, as well as Goodreads. Sometimes our ideas come from reading about current events and seeking out related literature, often just by Googling.

Nominating titles

Members bring up titles they’re interested in reading at the end of each meeting. Typically, there’s a title that stands out as interesting to the group as a whole, so we pick that one. If more than one sounds interesting, we typically just agree to read them in following months. We aren’t particularly organized – we have a group email thread, and that’s about it. Really, we don’t even keep a list of books we’ve read.

Recent reads

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Divider

Meet the German Booksphere!

Facts & Figures for Europe’s largest book market

 

NetGalley operates all over the world, serving the needs of global publishers. With dedicated NetGalley sites for Germany, France, and Japan, as well as the U.K., we are proud to support many different publishing ecosystems, all with their own unique characteristics. Today, we’re hearing from Karina Elm, who heads up customer relations and community management for NetGalley Germany. Below, she gives an overview of the German publishing landscape and book market.

Germany, well known to some for its great poets and thinkers (to others for its sausages, beer, football and the Autobahn), owns the largest book market in Europe. Struggling – just like in many other countries – with the rise of strong competitors called Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and others, the book is not yet forgotten. On the contrary: Even though the number of people buying books has decreased, individual people actually read more and the amount of titles published per year is still rising. Let’s have a closer look at some facts and figures from the year 2017 as well as some specialties of the German book market!

 

Source: Source: MVB-online.com, “Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen.” 2017.

Bookselling: Bookstores and Fixed Prices

 

6,000 bookstores are selling books to readers, employing a total of 27,800 booksellers. 3,500 are small independent bookshops and 1,200 are part of bookstore chains. Berlin has the most bookstores in German – 236 stores for its 3.5 million inhabitants.

Many bookstores meet the challenge to compete with online sales platforms by selling coffee, hosting events (like public readings) and turning their shops into cultural meeting points. Since 2015, the German Ministry of Culture honors the most innovative bookshops with the German Bookshop Award.

2018’s three best bookshops are Krumulus, Lessing und Kompanie, and Bittner-Buch.

Germany has fixed book prices. This means that publishers set a price for each book which is then mandatory for retailers. Only a limited number of discounts are allowed. Publishers can change the price, and the price for a different edition may vary. The tradition of fixed book prices goes back to the 19th century, the current law was introduced in 2002. Fixed prices are widely seen as a strong advantage of the German book market since they have benefits for both the industry as well as from a cultural perspective.

Booksellers of all sizes profit from a calculable margin on bestsellers, retailers compete not just with their prices but also with their service. It is beneficial for brick & mortar booksellers in the often destructive competition with online retailers and vendors outside the book industry. For publishers it means that they can cross-subsidise bestselling books with other works, allowing publishing decisions to be made on other aspects than just the selling potential sometimes. This helps support the work of lesser-known authors, as well as titles with complicated or expensive layouts.  For readers, the fixed price system results in a large variety of books as well as publishing houses with different profiles. It also allows for a very efficient distribution system: If you order any book at your favorite bookstore you’d most likely be able to pick it up the next day. Last but not least, a strong network of bookshops offering a diverse and colorful range of books is an important part of a diverse and colorful society!

 

German Readers: Who they are and how they read

 

Source: MVB-online.com, “Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen.” 2017.

Just like in many countries, book bloggers are on the rise in Germany. By 2018, thousands of blogs about books, reviews and other bookish topics can be found online – the actual number is difficult to establish. The blogosphere is very active, well connected and spanning all genres and formats. Booktubers and Bookstagrammers are on a strong rise, too. By now, many publishers are working closely with individual bloggers, some even launched unique platforms for bloggers to read and review their titles. In 2017, the first German Book Blog Award was initiated by NetGalley Germany in cooperation with the German Publishers & Booksellers Association and rewarded the best German-language literary blogger as well as one booktuber. In 2018, the prize was given out in 9 categories, among them Romance, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Children’s Literature, Newcomers and Other Formats.

German Book Blog Award Ceremony 2018

The Tolino is Germany’s own reading device for ebooks, competing with Amazon’s Kindle – and rising above it with a market share of 40% in 2017. Tolino is a strategic alliance between biggest German retailers to offer and produce e-readers and tablets. In January 2017, the Japanese Rakuten Kobo took over the shares of their former technical partner Deutsche Telekom. 2,000 bookstores sell books through the Tolino system and many independent booksellers are connected to it as well. Contrary to the Kindle, Tolino is an open system which means ebooks can be bought at any participating shop and read on any other device as well.

Book Industry Events, Awards, and Associations

 

Two book fairs are the German publishing industry’s yearly highlights and every book lover counts the days between them. The big one, Frankfurt Book Fair, is actually the world’s largest trade fair for books and has a long tradition, rooting back to 1454. Every year in mid-October, publishers, agents, tech companies, and content providers meet for business, trading, and international rights deals. Over the weekend, the fair opens for the public. More than 7,300 exhibitors from over 100 countries and more than 286,000 visitors took part in 2017.

In comparison to this, Leipzig Bookfair and it’s 208,000 visitors in 2017 is like a younger sister. It’s history goes back to the 17th century and it is a fair for the public: Visitors can attend all 4 days in order to discover new books and meet their favorite authors. There are hundreds of public readings at the fair but also throughout the whole city of Leipzig which transforms into a huge festival of reading during this time in March.

Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

Germany has numerous literary awards for books and authors. The most famous of them is probably the German Book Prize which can be compared to the Man Booker Prize. Launched in 2005, it honors the best novel written in German in each publishing year and is awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Most of its winners have already been translated into English, you can find a list here.

The most prestigious literary award in Germany is the Georg Büchner Prize which honors an author’s lifetime of work and was, for example, given to later Nobel Prize winners Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Elias Canetti and Elfriede Jelinek. A very atypical literary award is the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. It honors an author for an unpublished literary excerpt only and is very publicly awarded during the Festival of German-Language Literature where the texts are read out loud and the jury comments directly, often very critical, while the audience watches in the room as well as in front of the TV across the whole county.

The German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), founded in Leipzig in 1825, represents all sectors of the book industry: Publishers, Retail Booksellers, Antiquarians and Wholesalers. They also organize – among other things – the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Book Prize, and they are custodian of the fixed price system.

 

NetGalley Germany

 

NetGalley.de was launched in March 2016 (just in time for the Leipzig Book Fair!) and by now has more than 11,500 members, The first ones to adopt the platform were of course book bloggers who had already used NetGalley.com and were very excited to finally also find German publishers and titles available for them.

German publishers by then were working with their own bloggers already and saw NetGalley as a platform to use it in their communication with those bloggers, and to widen th

NetGalley Germany

eir network.  However, a few adventurous German publishers started sending the NetGalley widget to their network of booksellers, as well. It was a big transformation of workflows that have existed for many, many years (and we all know

how painful this can be) but it was worth it: We now receive excited and very happy feedback from both publishers who followed this example, as well as from booksellers, telling us how much easier their daily work has become.

The growing implementation of NetGalley in publishers’ work with booksellers has resulted in the following division of member types, very special for the German market: As of October 2018, 47% of the German speaking members are reviewers, 43% booksellers, 5% media and 5% librarians and educators. Their favorite genres are Fiction (45%), Teens and YA (40%), Thrillers & Crime (37%), Fantasy & Sci-Fi (35%) and Romance (25%). During an average month in 2018, more than 26,000 galleys were sent out through NetGalley.de, and members provided over 5,000 pieces of Feedback.

Do you publish in German? Use NetGalley.de to reach out to our avid community of professional readers, promoting your tiles to German readers! I would be very happy to hear from you via karina.elm@netgalley.com.

 

Karina Elm is Customer Relations and Community Manager at NetGalley Germany – and a huge bookaholic. After studying Comparative Literature, she worked for Ullstein Publishers as part of the team around digital imprints Midnight and Forever, and as the online marketing manager at Clear Canvas, an online marketing agency in Berlin. Karina Elm is initiator and driving force behind the German Book Blog Award which launched in 2017 and has been teaching a class at the Free University of Berlin about online reading communities in 2018.

Divider