How NorthSouth Books used timely subject matter, modern visuals, and Read Now availability to give pre-publication buzz to the story of an inventive penguin
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Heather Lennon, managing director at NorthSouth Books.
Below, learn about how she used NetGalley to gather over 100 pre-publication reviews for Chilly da Vinci by Jarrett Rutland. Chilly da Vinci tells the story about a young penguin inventor, tapping into current trends in STEM education for young readers, as well as the maker movement, all with a modern and appealing visual style.
The market for children’s books is especially hot right now. What do you think is unique about this particular segment of the publishing industry, as it relates to marketing and publicity?
Picture book publishing is very interesting in that it’s a visual medium, art and story together. We highlight the illustrations and the story in every book. Right now, I think that is a huge positive as far as coverage in blogs, Instagram, online and in print review journals. For Chilly Da Vinci, Jarrett Rutland’s artwork is so fun and striking–it just pops off the page, so I think it’s very appealing to reviewers.
Where does NetGalley fit into the overall strategy and timeline for Chilly da Vinci?
NetGalley is very important to NorthSouth Books! We always offer our lead titles on NetGalley. We aim to offer them 3-6 months in advance of publication. It’s really helped us reach readers, grow our brand recognition, and amass reviews online.
Which segments of the NetGalley community were most important to you? How did you go about reaching them?
Asking who is most important is like asking my mom to name her favorite child! We love them all. I will say….librarians have been a big part of our publishing program forever. Booksellers are enormously important in the life of a book–we are small enough that we never take a book being in-store for granted. Bloggers, tweeters, instagrammers help us get out the word! This is our world, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.
Chilly da Vinci is a Read Now title. Tell us why that was the right decision for making the title available widely to NetGalley members.
I don’t set a lot of hoops to jump through to get to our titles on Netgalley. I am thrilled that NetGalley members want to open the book. I truly believe, if you read our books, you will enjoy them, you will recommend them and review them. So Read Now is always my preference.
Most NetGalley members who clicked to read Chilly da Vinci listed the cover and the description as the reason for their interest. It comes as no surprise, given that the author is also the illustrator! Tell us about how you created compelling copy for the Title Details page.
It was important to everyone at NorthSouth that we convey that Chilly is a do-er, that this book would appeal to the maker movement. And that Chilly never gives up. And then in general, I think one of the most important things is clean, readable copy, especially online. It’s so basic, but it’s important to make sure that your info has uploaded correctly–not doubled or tripled or cut off in some weird way!
Tell us more about strategies you used to leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.
Every book has a tip sheet that is fed out online. The sales reps use it to sell the book, and it gets uploaded to Edelweiss–which lots of bookstore buyers use for their job. Whenever we upload one of our books on to NetGalley that is a sales bullet that’s fed out to the world.
How will NetGalley be incorporated into your post-pub strategy?
We will be following up with everyone who reviewed Chilly with a pre-on-sale newsletter with activities and info about Jarrett Rutland’s events. The book launch will be held at an ice cream shop in Asheville on Saturday, Dec. 8. We hope that NetGalley members who loved the book will attend.
What is your top tip for publishers to use NetGalley to its full potential?
Download the reviews and keep those members in mind as you work on future books. It’s not just seeing what people think about this book, it’s being able to reach out to them for the next book as well.*
BookTubers are enthusiastic readers who share their enthusiasm with their audience, which often range in the tens of thousands or more. They recommend new titles, post reviews, unpack boxes of books, show off their bookshelves, participate in interactive reading challenges, and more. In our Ask a BookTuber series, we hear directly from these influencers about their platform of choice, their audiences, and the kinds of books they are most interested in reading for their channel. Plus, they tell us which BookTubers they are watching!
Cece is “23, super gay, and a lover of all things bookish.” She reviews all genres of books, but heavily promotes any and all LGBTQIA+ fiction. Her channel features reviews, recommendations, bookish songs, unboxings, fandom discussions, and the occasional vlog. Here’s a video where she describes herself through books that she loves and identifies with.
I love their support. No matter what I create, there is always a support base there. They rally me on when I’m unable to make as much content, when I make content that is unusual for my channel, and honestly whenever I post. [They] mainly support me through comments on videos, but their support isn’t limited to that. I have a lot of viewers who reach out through Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr to send me messages. Especially if I have posted on Twitter that a video has gone up recently, or that I might be delayed in posting, I get responses and direct messages that let me know people appreciate what I do. Sometimes I get video suggestions, or messages from people letting me know I should put my mental health first. But the comments on videos are where the bulk of information from my [YouTube] subscribers comes from.
There is a real loyalty that I never expected from the viewers of my channel, which is why I’m always motivated to come up with new ideas and read as often as I can. They support me, which makes me eager to create content for them in return.
What should book publishers know about your audience?
The majority of my viewers are between 18-35, despite the fact that I read and review mostly YA. They are eager to learn more about unusual and less publicized books, and especially about diverse releases. They want to be as knowledgeable as possible about which books contain what kind of representation. I can’t count the number of times that I have comments from people about how if they had known a main character was a person of color/queer/dealt with mental illness, they would have read a book so much sooner. Knowing these details is important for my audience; [it] helps to sell them on a book.
What do you think is unique about video as a medium and about YouTube as a platform for book lovers?
I think there is a certain energy when you can actually see a person who is excited or let down or angry about a book. I love reading written reviews, but I really appreciate the spontaneity and extra visual layer of YouTube as a reviewing platform. I think it showcases books in a new way, and as a person who has always loved to read, I adore the different ways readers adapt to sharing their passion.
Describe your tone as a BookTuber: What is it about that tone that resonates with your audience?
I attempt to be positive and uplifting in every video. I think that upbeat aspect of my content resonates with people because they feed off the energy that I put in. I am excited and I don’t hide it, and people appreciate that realness from the YouTubers they watch.
[But also], my tone is determined based on the content I am producing. I think when it comes to books I keep a pretty standard, upbeat tone unless I am doing reviews for standalone books. There are book reviews I have done that are about more serious topics (I did a video reviewing The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas when it was originally released, and there is also my stand alone review of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour) and I think I am a bit more serious in those videos in order to better represent the tone of the [books themselves]. When I’m doing videos where I talk about books I didn’t like, or [sharing] unpopular opinions about books, I still try to be upbeat but it becomes a bit more sarcastic and teasing than in other videos…I never want those videos to feel like downers. [Also,] There are times when I am talking more specifically about my life or specific mental state (as in a recent video I did about my hair and how it affects how I see my sexuality).
I also think that genuine positivity is something that I have needed more and more from the content I have consumed in recent years, so I always want to be that positive voice that others might need as well. Plus, it helps that I am frequently talking to queer viewers about queer stories. So often queerness is turned into tragedy in popular media, so I view my place as a happy lesbian as being important for others to see– it is important for queer viewers to find stories about happy queer people.
Why is video the right platform for you?
Video captures my feelings better than any other medium. I have a degree in English, so there is always this assumption that I must be an effective writer, but I can never quite get across my feelings in writing as well as I do in a more visual medium. When I was a kid, I was a visual comedian. I am a visual learner. I just think that conveying emotion, for me, is largely linked to my physicality, which is why YouTube works more for me than any other medium.
How do you pick books and authors to feature on your channel?
I use a variety of sources, for sure. My anticipated releases almost always come from Goodreads lists and Barnes & Noble’s upcoming releases posts. Other books come largely from recommendations by other BookTubers, but also through announcements on Publishers Weekly and Twitter. My favorite places on Twitter for book recommendations are @LGBTQReads, @bookvvitch, @SaundraMitchell, @romweasleys, @sapphicsolace, @yabookscentral, @prideathon, @bbliophile, and through following lots of big name and indie publishers online. I keep up with release announcements as they come through publishers and authors.
When I pick which books I really want to talk about, though, it is mostly reliant on what I loved most or am most excited to read, while also being influenced by what I think my audience will want to know about. If there is a book I’m not particularly excited about, but it features some form of representation that is harder to find, I will work in ways to discuss that book because I want my viewers to have the easiest access possible to books they may be interested in.
What strategies do you use on NetGalley to find books to request?
I rely very heavily on searching through specific categories. My most searched category is, of course, the LGBTQIA section (pictured left), since that is what my channel’s primary focus is. But often books are not cross-referenced [with other] categories, so there are queer books listed in other places that I don’t find in that LGBTQIA category.* That’s usually when I search through the Teens & YA and, sometimes, the Literary Fiction sections. I will say that, often, digging through the literary fiction books leads me to discovering books I want to read that I had never heard of before. Requesting those books is something I do more sparingly, since I know less about them, but it has led to me finding a variety of books I never would have read otherwise. Beyond that, I sometimes find and request books through NetGalley after an author or another blogger lets me know that a book is available on the site.
*NetGalley recommends making sure that your titles are listed in two categories to increase visibility
What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?
I think there is definitely a trend next year that I’m thrilled about, and that is more f/f romances than I have ever seen through a publishing year. 2019 queer releases are looking incredible, varied, and full of stories and representation that I know my audience has been searching for. I have also been excited about what seems to be a growing number of short story collections and novellas. The changing landscape for format is really thrilling to me, and I am eager to see how that changes the types of stories we are seeing published.
Which BookTubers do you watch?
There are so many, oh wow. I think Adriana from perpetualpages is and has been doing incredible things with their channel. They are thoughtful and critical in equal measure, and always discuss books I was previously unaware of. BooksandLala has been doing creative stuff with her channel for years, and I think this year has been an amazing leap for her in that creativity. I’m constantly impressed by the content she comes up with. There is Monica from shemightbemonica, who is such an advocate and a positive voice within our community. I love Joseph from The Boy Who Cried Books, Nicole from WoolfsWhistle, Kristin from Super Space Chick, Joce from squibblesreads, and Marines from mynameismarines. I think they all do creative and fascinating things to promote books, and there is so much work and care put into all of their content.
The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) works to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Their membership includes trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.
Throughout the day, seven different presenters described their jobs – their workflow, the challenges they face, and where their work fits into a book’s lifecycle.
Most of us only see books during a relatively small part of their lives. The details and strategy that consume our workdays are only a fraction of the work that goes in to bringing a book to the public. Acquisition editors see books when they are just manuscripts and ideas. Printers shepard books into the physical world and then pass them along. Library marketers are thinking about how books will live in communities years after their pub date, when the pages are soft and earmarked. This overview of what our colleagues are doing across the industry was a welcome reminder that we all depend on each other’s work to bring the best books to the readers who will love them.
For those who weren’t able to attend, here is a bit of what was covered:
Publishing is beyond personal taste
Contrary to popular conception, Todd Stocke described his role as SVP and Editorial Director at Sourcebooks as less about his own inimitable tastes and more about analyzing data and looking for spaces in the market to tell new stories. For him to be successful at his job, he needs to be able to think outside of his personal preferences and the demographic details that have given rise to his interests and tastes. He has to have an idea of what people of different backgrounds are interested in, and to have access to the writers telling those stories. He described the necessity of having a pipeline that is both broad and deep. A broad pipeline means getting manuscripts from a variety of sources and a deep pipeline means developing relationships with the people providing those manuscripts so that, for example, an agent will know immediately if the manuscript in their hand is the perfect book for the Sourcebooks nonfiction editor.
All stages of book publishing are about the audience
This was the overarching theme of the day. It was not a shock to hear audience as the focus for acquisitions, bookstores, or libraries. These are the parts of the industry that we know need to be responsive to what readers are looking for. But we were surprised to hear how much audience fits into how other players in the industry do their jobs. As Judine O’Shea described the design process for a book, she made the point that a big driver for her is audience-appropriateness. If she’s designing the title and page layout for a children’s book, how many colors will be too busy for young eyes? Will the font be easily legible for early readers? Michael Shea from LSC Communications pointed out that audience use determines the physical form of a book, too. Different binding styles are better for the different ways books live in our lives. For example, an art book that is meant to lay flat on a coffee table will be bound differently than a trade paperback meant to be read on the subway. The glue used on a technical textbook that will be out of date in a few years will be different from the glue used on a book that might be passed down from generation to generation.
Know your local, professional community
Suzy Takacs chalked up some of her success at the Book Cellar to her close relationships with local players of the book industry. She described her warm relationships with other booksellers, and how she has called upon stores like Women & Children First to help her stock titles in advance of events. She even described visiting IPG’s warehouse for a last-minute pickup. She is able to quickly respond to inventory needs and meet consumer demand because she has positive relationships with other booksellers and with distributors. Stephen Sposato of the Chicago Public Library expressed a desire to work more closely with booksellers. He suggested sharing data about which titles have long hold lists, so that bookstores will know what readers are asking for and can make sure to adjust their inventory to align with demand.
Last week, NetGalley joined 230 other attendees from 90 companies in Nashville to attend ECPA PubU. It’s a chance for members of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association to learn from one another, to think creatively about how to market their titles, and to brainstorm ways to expand their audiences. Many publishers and authors who use NetGalley are also members of the ECPA, so we at NetGalley Insights were grateful for the opportunity to hear more about the attendees’ unique needs, goals, and challenges.
Over and over, we heard attendees talking about how publishers and authors can put their readers first: By making it easier for readers to find the books they are looking for in a keyword search, by being experimental and responsive with the implementation of new platforms, by curating content for them in an overstuffed marketplace, and by making sure that marketing emails provide information of real interest and value.
Here are some of the ideas and lessons we’re taking away with us from ECPA PubU:
Better cross-departmental communication is key to making the most out of your metadata
During his talk about metadata, Firebrand Director of Sales & Marketing Joshua Tallent made the case that marketing and data departments should be working together much more closely. He suggested not only that there should be cross-training, but that in an ideal world, these departments would share staff. Metadata is fundamentally a marketing tool, helping with algorithmic discovery. As you might expect, titles with basic metadata (author, title, ISBN) have 75% higher sales than titles without that information. It only stands to reason that data and marketing should be more closely linked at an institutional level. For example, data teams can use keywords to see how audiences are searching for your books and then marketing departments can include that in their copy and as keywords in the metadata feeds that they are sending out to retailers. This way, data insights are made actionable during a book’s lifecycle. Publishers across the industry know that they need to incorporate data into their decision-making process, and creating better cross-departmental collaboration is a great place to start.
Experiment as you implement new channels and platforms
When the Rabbit Room began in 2007, it was a blog for Christian writers, pastors, musicians, and fans to gather together. Now, in 2018 it is a conference, a publishing house, a live music series, and a podcasting network. In his talk, “Building a Community of Readers,” Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press, described how Rabbit Room experimented with different ways to connect with their community as it grew and changed. One of those ways was podcasting. At first, they just had The Rabbit Room Podcast, but realized that they were better served by hosting multiple podcasts that could better target the specific interests of their community. They are currently in the process of building the Rabbit Room podcast network with multiple programs geared towards specific interests. This lesson reminded us that when publishers and authors are finding new ways to engage their audience, it’s ok to experiment and pivot to best suit your needs.
Curation is crucial for publishers and retailers of all sizes
In her opening remarks about the future of faith and the future of retail, NPD’s Kristen McLean suggested that the future of retail is a mix of high-touch and convenience. Brands (including publishers and retailers) will have to be both personable and easily accessible if they are going to succeed. Several panelists during the conference described their successes with curation as a strategy for becoming high-touch, but without coming across as overtly sales-y. Stacy Kennedy of Red Bird Social noted the success of Patsy Clairmont’s Patsy Box as a way to connect authentically with fans. David Barker of Readerlink highlighted how Amazon is getting into the curation game as well. Amazon is now offering a podcast full of personalized picks from the Amazon staff, to put a warm human face behind the convenience and the algorithm. Curation is something that can be implemented at an author level (what would your protagonist put on a Spotify playlist?) or at a company level (here’s what our team is reading).
Encourage authors to create around their book topic
Authors need to get the word out about their titles around pub date, but it isn’t effective to just blast out “pre-order/buy my book” emails or social posts. Instead, authors should create content that’s related to their book or to the writing process to build excitement. This should all be done in order to provide something of real value to the audience. For example, author of the Left Behind series Jerry Jenkins described the Facebook group he runs for aspiring writers. He is able to connect authentically with an audience by providing value in the form of writing advice. Then, when he has a book coming out, he has an audience that’s actively engaged with him both as a person and as a writer. He also noted that, as a writer, he’s not inclined towards self-promotion, but this writing group on Facebook feels authentic rather than gimmicky. Additionally, outside of the ECPA ecosystem, Ling Ma did a terrific job with this strategy by writing about crying at work for Buzzfeed News before her novel Severance pubbed.
NetGalley is proud to partner with and support the ECPA and its members. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how we work with ECPA publishers.
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 fanbases 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.
Now Now, I’m Reading is a bi-weekly podcast where hosts Chelsea & Kay discuss what they’re reading and loving. Their guiding principle is that they want to read things that make them happy. From comics to romance, through science-fiction, young adult, crime, or fantasy. If it can be classed as genre fiction, it’s something they’ll gush about.
Chelsea & Kay aim to be critical media consumers, but strive to make Not Now, I’m Reading a space for positivity and celebration of media that gets it right.
What do you love best about your audience?
Kay: Personally, I love how excited they are to hear about what we’re reading and that they’re just as happy to share their current media favorites with us. Our listeners tend to be heavy social media users and we interact with quite a few of them through Twitter and our Patreon.
Chelsea: Similar to Kay, I love the fact that our audience feels so much like family. Whenever they reach out over Twitter to discuss an episode, give their feelings about a rec we gave, or to recommend us something in return, it feels like such an equal exchange for love for a thing!
What should book publishers know about your audience?
Kay: Our listeners skew heavily female, which makes sense given how much airtime we devote to romance and fanfiction. Our listeners are also more likely to pick up ebooks and audiobooks, at least the ones who’ve reached out to us. Accessibility is important, for us and for them. We provide full transcripts for every episode of our podcast, so we actually have a fair number of ‘listeners’ who read instead of listen as their primary means of consuming Not Now, I’m Reading. We embed links in the podcast transcript and show notes, too, which makes it very easy for our listeners to click on whatever we’re talking about and snag a copy while they’re still listening to the episode!
Chelsea: Our audience is always on the look for titles that are diverse, current, challenging takes on tropes or themes they love. We are proud of the fact, and our readers respond well to the knowledge that, in the history of our podcast, we haven’t had a book by a cis straight white man as our main focus. Our selections tend to skew heavily towards newer releases, with the exception of YA and middle grade titles, for which we tend to look more towards the backlist.
What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers/cultural commentary?
Kay: There’s something incredibly personal about book podcasts, and not just because there’s something personal about the human voice. Is that a creepy way of putting that? I’ve always felt a sense of intimacy with radio and podcasting. Especially when you have a very informal chatty format like ours, it’s really like you’re sitting down with a couple of your friends to talk about the things you’re enjoying. And while reading is most often a solitary pursuit, I think many book people love discussing what we’re reading and what we’re thinking of reading and how all of those things compare to things we’ve read. Sometimes you don’t have people in your daily life who are big readers, and that’s okay! But it’s nice to listen to other bookish people and media geeks enthusiastically discussing stuff they love. I mean, we love it so much we record ourselves doing it and then send it out into the world for other people to listen to!
Chelsea: Perhaps this feels a bit dramatic, but in a time when it feels like the educational fabric of our country is unraveling bit by bit, we love that we are able to provide a fun, welcoming, open discussion of books and reading in a way that addresses books as they interact with so many other aspects of our lives. Like Kay said, reading can be such a solitary activity, it can feel so good to feel a connection to other people who are reading, and to the world at large through the written word. We try our hardest to be open about our mental states and lives as they relate to the books and media we’re consuming, and that honesty and the personal and cultural overlap is what I’ve always loved most about book podcasts, especially more casual ones like ours.
How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?
Kay: We exclusively feature genre fiction on the podcast, and mostly tend towards romance and SFF. We feature YA, mystery, women’s fiction, and other genres, as well, but romance and SFF are our big two. We also don’t feature any books by cishet white men. There are plenty of places their work is being featured, they don’t need our airtime, too. We also try to have the books and authors featured reflective of our person reading. Both of us set pretty high goals on the numbers of women/POC/LGBTQIA+ authors and characters we want to see in the books we’re reading. We also aim to talk about new releases within a month of launch date, but we pre-record episodes because of scheduling constraints, so it’s not always guaranteed. As far as authors we interview? At this point they’ve all reached out to us first, but we have a bit of a dream list of people we’d love to have on to talk with us.
Chelsea: Kay pretty much summarized it nicely, but I will also add that we run polls as part of our Patreon, which is where we try and feature more backlist titles and books that revolve around central themes or tropes, which our patrons can then vote on. We choose these titles by the same guiding principles Kay laid out, but this avenue also allows us to interact with our audience in a more engaged way!
If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?
Kay: Is it awful to say I don’t really have a strategy? It’s not very Slytherin of me, surely. I’m usually already coming to the site with abbook or an author or very rarely a rough target release date in mind, on the off-chance we have an unexpected schedule gap for a specific air date. I do less browsing and more targeted searching.
Chelsea: Whereas, being the Hufflepuff in this scenario, I go entirely by window-shopping feel! I have most of the major publishers for our two biggest genres (SFF and romance) bookmarked and once every few weeks I’ll go and just browse by cover art, author familiarity, or just things that catch my wandering eye. In and of itself it’s not really much of a strategy, but the more browsing I do the better my gut intuition becomes.
What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?
Kay: I’m terrible about keeping track of trends! I tend to find new authors and subsequently binge their backlist titles, so I’m not always great at staying on top of new releases. I hope it’s not a trend (since that implies it’ll end relatively quickly), but I do love that even self-pubbed and small press books are starting to be more readily available on audio. At least 50% of the novels I read consumed in audiobook format. I’m also a big fan of how many ‘spinoff’ series are being picked up by mainstream publishers. For instance, Alisha Rai recently sold a spinoff series of her Forbidden Hearts books, which Chelsea and I adore. The first book in the new series will focus on the sister of a heroine from the previous series.
Chelsea: Like Kay mentioned, I am thrilled by the rise in audio consumption and availability. We consume so much of our own media in an audio format, and we know a great number of our listeners do as well, that it’s really exciting to see smaller presses get that audio treatment. On a smaller scale, I’m really excited in what seem to be trends towards musicians in romance and WAY less grimdark in SFF. I’m all about both of those things, very very much so!
The Internet is a social place. It’s where readers find their next book, where authors stay connected to readers, where publishers keep abreast of new voices, and industry newbies hunt for their first jobs in the field. “How to use…if you’re…” breaks down best practices for literary social corners of the Internet for different players in the publishing industry.
So, today we’ll be looking at how independent authors can use Wattpad to sharpen their own storytelling skills, connect with other authors, and grow a community of dedicated readers.
Using Wattpad as an Author
Wattpad is a great place for authors to experiment with serial storytelling, and to connect with passionate readers from all over the world. Authors can use it to hone their voice, get immediate feedback from readers, and expand their audience.
What is Wattpad?
Wattpad is a socially engaged and enthusiastic community of writers and readers. With a global community of 70 million members, and over 565 million story uploads, the platform is a vibrant place full of passionate readers and emerging writers. Most of the stories on Wattpad are geared toward young women and tend toward YA, Romance, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, although other genres have devoted followings as well. The website is free to use, for both writers and readers.
Some Wattpad authors have even transitioned their Wattpad stories into traditionally published novels, or turned into TV shows or movies. Others have worked with companies to create branded content on the site. Huge successes like this may be outliers, but even if Wattpad doesn’t turn into a star-making vehicle for you, it is a place to grow as a writer, and to connect with an audience that is invested in your voice.
Hone your voice
Because Wattpad writers publish their stories serially, you have some flexibility to play around with your style. If you realize after a few chapters that the way you’ve been formatting dialogues is clunky, shift gears. If you intended your story to end with the heroine falling for her shy best friend, but realize that the femme fatale is a better fit for the story arc, you can reshape the plot as you write. Wattpad lets you change direction without having to rewrite your whole story.
But as you experiment, don’t forget about the reader! If a reader is clicking through several chapters at a time, they will likely be frustrated if you are making huge structural changes, like switching from third person to first person or turning your dystopian YA story into a sweet teen romance. If you do decide that your story needs a dramatic change, try starting a new one entirely.
Be sure to check out Wattpad’s Writer’s Portal, for both inspiration and practical advice.
Get feedback from readers
One of Wattpad’s most exciting social features is the line by line commenting. Readers leave comments on Wattpad stories, and can even comment on a particular sentence, showing precisely where they are having an intense reaction. You can see what readers are loving and what is drawing them in. You can also learn if your writing is registering with readers in a way that you don’t intend.
Grow your audience
With Wattpad’s huge global community, you can find kindred spirits, both as readers and fellow writers. Joining message boards, called Clubs, can help you become more involved in the Wattpad community. Industry Insider is geared specifically towards authors, and full of threads about the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry (from copyright to cover art) and general community encouragement. You can also join communities of readers who are reading stories similar to the ones you write, or the ones you like to read. See what readers are saying, and jump in on the conversation!
You can also engage with readers and other writers on profile pages. All member profiles, both writers and authors, include a Conversation section for members to chat with each other. Get to know writers whose work you admire by commenting and striking up a conversation. And when readers comment on your profile, make sure to respond! It’s a great way to cultivate a dedicated community of readers.
Check out more tips and strategies for independent authors here, and be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you don’t miss a post!
Getting your book sold into a bookstore can be one of the most daunting parts about being an independent author, but also potentially the most gratifying. Seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar store, next to a curated inventory of other books is an accomplishment for any author.
Booksellers are pitched thousands of titles per year, so the competition to get your book carried by a store can be fierce. But, with some forethought, you can set yourself up to meet this challenge head-on.
Make sure to schedule an appointment with a book buyer rather than showing up to a bookstore unannounced, with copies in hand. Booksellers will appreciate your professionalism and the respect for their time. Plus, it gives you both an opportunity to prepare. These meetings tend to be short, so prepare a succinct pitch for your title. Give a quick introduction to your book (no need to give a full synopsis, just enough to pique their interest), and three good reasons why your title is a good fit for their bookstore and clientele.
Let the bookseller know what kinds of promotions you are doing, either in your local area or online. If you have reviews or feedback, be sure to leverage that as an indicator of enthusiasm for your work.
Hopefully, the bookseller will be impressed and take a few copies of your title to sell in their shop. But, if not, gracefully accept their decision. You’ll want to leave a positive impression on them so that you can hopefully build a strong working relationship in the future.
In addition to selling your title to bookstores, consider other places who might be interested in buying some copies of your book. Local museums, libraries, archives, and record stores are great places to start. Be creative!
BookTube is the segment of the YouTube community dedicated to reading and reviewing books. Like any other community on YouTube (like gamers or beauty bloggers), BookTube has its own celebrities, norms, and unique quirks. The bulk of BookTubers read primarily YA novels, although not exclusively. BookTubers are enthusiastic, and tend to be quite high-energy.
According to YouTube, the BookTube community has over 200 million views of videos, and engagement is growing. Comparing July 2017 to 2018, engagement with BookTube videos is up 40%. This demonstrates both the reach of BookTube, and its effectiveness. Because of the intimate nature of these videos, reviews feel like recommendations from a friend rather than from an impersonal cultural gatekeeper.
Who are BookTubers and their audience?
Most BookTubers are millennials, and, like the rest of the trade fiction and YA market, skew female. The BookTube audience comprises primarily millennial and teen book enthusiasts. Marketing teams at children’s or YA publishers and imprints work with BookTubers to gain access to an audience of enthusiastic young readers who are already active on YouTube, as opposed to other media outlets, or even other social media platforms (i.e. Facebook or Twitter).
What is a BookTube video?
There are many different kinds of BookTube videos. Here are a few of the most common:
Book Haul: The BookTuber will go through the pile of books that they recently received, or purchased. It’s a roundup of what titles they are most excited to read.
Book Tag: Book Tag videos are centered around a specific theme or challenge, for example “Out of My Comfort Zone.” A BookTuber will respond to all questions in the tag, and then tag other BookTubers to participate as well to keep the conversation going.
Bookshelf Tour: BookTubers show their own collections of books. These videos show how a BookTuber organizes their books; by color, genre, To Be Read, and more.
Readathon: Readathons are interactive reading marathons hosted by one or more BookTubers. Often they have special challenges and rules, and integrations with other platforms, like Goodreads and Twitter. These readathons take place over set period of time The BookTubeAThon is an annual readathon hosted by multiple BookTubers.
Reviews: BookTubers give their impressions of a book, including a summary. Similar to any other kind of book review.
Unboxing: A popular style of YouTube video even outside of the BookTube community. BookTubers will open boxes of books, often sent to them either by a publisher or by a book subscription service.
Wrap Up: Wrap up videos are recaps of books that BookTubers have read during a given set of time. Often, these will be annual. They can function as a BookTuber’s “Best of” list.
How do I find the most relevant BookTubers for my titles?
Research BookTubers the same way that you can find relevant influencers on other platforms. Searching hashtags like #BookTube or #BookReview will give you a good overview of the community, but might be too broad for truly targeted searching. If you are publishing a YA dystopian title with a Latinx protagonist, try searching for BookTubers who have engaged with similar titles, or searching #YADystopia or #OwnVoices. Then, see who has high counts of followers and strong engagement from their audience in the comments section.
Once you have identified a few key BookTubers for your needs, consider looking at who they have listed under “My Favs” on their profile. Or, keep an eye on who BookTubers are tagging in their Tag videos. Learn who BookTubers are following and communicating with to gain a better grasp of the community landscape.
How can I engage with BookTubers to reach their audience?
Many major book publishers are already working with BookTubers to meet an enthusiastic market of young readers where they already are, with popular BookTubers receiving many requests from publishers and authors. WhittyNovels offered some tips about how publishers and authors can increase their chances of having their titles reviewed by a BookTuber.
Publishers should send print or digital galleys to BookTubers as they would to any other influencer (most BookTubers post contact information in the About section of their page) but the video format does offer some unique opportunities that publishers can take advantage of to drive creative strategic marketing decisions.
Publishers (or retailers) can also work with BookTubers to sponsor unique content. For example, Barnes and Noble sponsored a book haul with Linh Truong. Publishers can send galleys in special packaging to encourage BookTubers to feature their titles in unboxing videos, as Simon & Schuster did for the release of Lady Midnight. Or, work with BookTubers directly to create an unboxing video, as Penguin Teen did with JesseTheReader for A Map of Days (see right). Consider asking BookTubers to feature your titles for a readathon to boost awareness and enthusiasm, or work with multiple BookTubers to create a themed Tag video around your upcoming title. BookTubers grow their audience by consistently providing entertaining and creative content. Offer something new and exciting that will keep their fans engaged, and build a mutually beneficial partnership.
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.
Mandy Peterson, a Library Media Specialist at a high school library in Schuyler, Nebraska, fills us in about her work below:
Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services
Schuyler is a small town of about 6,300 in an area of Nebraska known for farming, ranching, and packing plants. Within the last fifteen years, our community has changed from mostly Caucasian rural folks to a vibrant mix of Hispanic immigrants, African and Middle Eastern refugees, and its original inhabitants. This rather sudden change has led to a community struggling to figure out who they are together. Since I work in the high school with around 650 of the area’s youth, my patrons range in age from 14-21 and speak a variety of languages. Our students are coming of age and finding their identity in a new home, in a new country, and within a community that is finding its own identity. It’s a very exciting time to serve them!
What resources or programs make your library unique?
I’m not sure how unique it is, but we have a Spanish section with both nonfiction and fiction materials. We also mark High Interest Low Ability books with a small black dot and shelve them with the rest of the library’s collection so students who struggle with language, ability, or desire to read can identify books that may serve their needs without being singled out. After a student survey, I spent the end of the school year reorganizing our fiction section by genre. Over 96% of our students voted for the change!
Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in?
Quick reads, no matter the level, are popular in my school. High school students are spread thin with homework, activities, and jobs. They want quality material without a bunch of extra. These are books we need more of. Often, our students like longer books but simply don’t have the time to finish them. Realistic fiction (gritty or romance), science fiction and fantasy, and mystery are the most commonly read genres right now, but every book has its reader. I’m completely open to recommendations!
What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print?
Although our district provides an iPad for school use to every teacher and student at the high school, our eBook check out is not very high. Students have mentioned that they prefer physical books. Reading on paper helps them retain the information and shows their teachers that they aren’t messing around when they should be working. 98% of my circulation is physical books.
What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection?
NetGalley is one of the primary resources. I also follow Epic Reads and many publishers on my library’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Amazon’s Coming Soon section has saved me a few times from missing sequels or new releases from authors my patrons love.
What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley?
I head straight for the Teens and YA section, sort by Publishing date, and start looking. If I see books my patrons will like (for example, from an established author), I screenshot the cover and release date and drop it into a folder on my desktop to remind myself to order the book later. If it’s an author I haven’t heard of or an author I love in particular, I will request books that interest me. About 90% of the time, we wind up purchasing those for our library. We love supporting independent authors that we have found through NetGalley, too!
What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books? Cover? Title? Description?
I am a cover junkie. My students are, too. (Someone please update covers for classics!) It’s very difficult for me to circulate a book without an appealing, genre-appropriate cover. Descriptions are important too. Most patrons look on the back of the book for descriptions, not the inside flap. I see a lot of books put down if the description isn’t on the back.
In late September, Firebrand (NetGalley’s parent company) hosted its bi-annual community conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The community conference is an opportunity to bring our clients together from across the industry to swap stories and strategies. And, it’s a chance for us at Firebrand and NetGalley to learn about our clients’ needs. After an intimate conference full of long-time attendees, we’re still mulling over the conversations we had. Here’s what’s still on our mind:
Learn to fail or fail to learn
The conference opened with Firebrand President, Doug Lessing, showing SpaceX’s video of failed attempts to land orbital rocket boosters. Entertaining as it was to watch a bunch of technical fails and explosions, the message was clear; organizations that aren’t afraid to fail will ultimately be the ones to innovate. Experimenting, and learning from those experiments, will help us think ourselves into the future. The publishing landscape is always shifting, and most publishers are still trying to catch up to new audiences, new platforms, and new technologies. It’s only by being open to experimentation (which necessitates failures), that we will be able to meet these new challenges.
It’s not just about getting data, it’s about how you use it
It’s no news to the publishing industry that we need to embrace data more fully as a decision-making tool. But, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to get started and how to implement it into our already busy schedules. Fran Toolan, Firebrand’s Chief Igniter, introduced the DIKW framework for thinking about how to integrate data into decision-making. Conference attendees practiced the DIKW process together by examining lists of most popular books from multiple sources during a group session. By looking at different data sets – evaluating what information we can glean from it, what information is missing, and what other data points we might want to correlate – we were learning about how to structure data collection, analysis, and implementation.
New technology doesn’t replace the old
Michele Cobb, Executive Director of the Audio Publishers Association, brought up a surprising fact during her talk on growth in the audiobook market. She said that despite the popularity of digital media consumption and the rise of podcasting, audiobooks on CD don’t appear to be going anywhere. As new tech emerges, such as smartphones with streaming capabilities, old tech does not just go gentle into that good night. In the case of CDs and audiobooks, they are still useful for libraries, car travelers, parts of the world with spotty Internet infrastructure, and more. Additionally, self-published audiobooks can be printed on demand on CD, allowing for more audiobooks to come from more sources. It’s a welcome reminder that the newest and shiniest tool or technology doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell of traditional tools and tech. Ideally, it just means more choice and more access.
Collaboration across industry is key to survival
Publishers are all feeling the effects of a crowded industry. There seem to be infinite books, authors, platforms, publishers, imprints, and content delivery systems, all hoping to get the attention of what can feel like a dwindling market. But, as BISG Executive Director Brian O’Leary reminded us during his keynote, it’s by working collaboratively that we can make real improvements to the industry that will set us up for collective success in the future. By developing shared standards and workflow, we can ensure a more streamlined process throughout the life cycle of book publishing. Doug Lessing’s talk on blockchain brought this message home. He described one potential use of blockchain technology: developing an industry standard, secure platform for all aspects of the supply chain. While this would certainly require a lot of cross-industry conversation and planning, a secure standard platform for all supply chain transactions would streamline the day to day operations across the industry. And it’s only through that planning that all industry players could reap the benefits.
The Firebrand Community Conference is an opportunity for us to come together with our clients to think about how to best prepare for the future of publishing. At both Firebrand and NetGalley, client input, like the conversations we have at the conference, is a leading factor in how our services evolve. We value this opportunity to connect with our clients to better learn what their needs are, and how we can continue to help them reach their goals in a changing industry. We’ll see you all at the next Community Conference!