How We Updated Our Mission Statement

In the aftermath of the George Floyd protests last year, our press decided it was time to take more active and progressive steps towards diversifying the books that we publish. In the fall we began investigating and discussing the best way to implement these changes, and in the winter we assembled a team to research and draft an updated mission statement for our press.
Ooligan’s Background
Ooligan Press is a trade press run by the students of Portland State University’s Masters in Book Publishing program. Our press publishes four books each year, which creates learning experiences and fosters growth so that students can enter the publishing industry with both experience and knowledge.
Most of our decisions are made together through a democratic process, whether we are acquiring a new book or voting on a cover. This is a pretty rare process in the publishing industry—and it’s somewhat unique to us—so we wanted the process for updating our mission statement to be just as unique.
Our first task was to have all of our students write a list of several words and/or phrases that they believed should be included in the new mission statement. Regardless of whether or not it was included in the final draft, this allowed the mission writing team to see various trends and learn the values of those who make up the press, which would then be reflected in the updated statement.
Our writing team was composed of eight people who met over Zoom to complete the necessary tasks until a finalized draft was ready to present to the press.
In the winter, we began looking at mission statements from other presses and other facets of the industry such as publishers and printers. Our goal was to analyze a variety of mission statements in order to see what was working and what we could benefit from in terms of structure, rhetoric, etc. This may seem like a fairly obvious step, but this type of research allowed us to see all sorts of language and structures and to consider what would best fit the personality of our organization before we began writing.
We also looked at the slogans used by different corporations. Larger companies tend to focus on their brand and their outward image, so this exercise allowed us to look at effective and punchy copy that used a short number of words.
One of the most delicate parts of updating a mission statement is choosing your words precisely. While our press had a largely democratic process in the fall, the writing team was responsible for choosing rhetoric that matched the unique identity of our press. We discussed, agreed, and even disagreed, respectfully, favoring words like “equity” and “inclusion” over the more simple and overused “diversity.”
Another important part of the process was finding a way to simplify our press into its key parts, to really figure out who we are and what we represent in this industry. We felt that the most pertinent aspects of our press were the student-run and Pacific Northwest aspects, but we also wanted to add in a third idea of publishing diverse authorships.
We also looked at the structure of other mission statements, paying particular attention to word count and paragraph breaks to figure out how to most effectively organize our ideas.
Mission statements are most successful when they are focused and to-the-point. A writer who is submitting their manuscript is going to read dozens of mission statements, so we wanted ours to be under one hundred words in order to keep readers engaged, while still allowing them to get an understanding of who we are.
Pledge for Inclusivity
Our main focus, which I’ve been hinting at, was to add the idea of publishing diverse authorships so that we can demonstrate our progressive values as students. This has been an emerging part of our identity as a press, and we wanted this value to be stated clearly, without being buried behind our other goals. We want other publishers to know that this is what we are going for moving forward.
Team Writing
After our research and discussion near the end of winter, we finally began writing as a team. Team writing can be quite difficult, but we set out with concrete goals and tasks in terms of rhetoric, structure, concision, and our goal for inclusivity.
Our first meeting was very discussion-oriented, and before our second meeting, I compiled the most prominent points from each writer into a draft. When we met the second time, we discussed, tweaked, and played with the format until we had several versions of the same mission statement.
An advisory board of faculty members decided on one of these versions. After we presented it to the press, we allowed each student the chance to vote on the mission statement, and it ultimately passed. We are so excited to release it later this year!
The End of A First Step
Clarity, brevity, and utility were our main goals in updating our mission statement, and our group is incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. In moving towards our values of inclusivity, however, the mission statement is just the first step. Updating our mission statement is at the core of things that Ooligan Press wants to accomplish in terms of shaping literature and the publishing industry, and our work is still cut out for us.

Tips for Getting Your Author Ready for an Instagram Takeover

Social media is a great way to generate publicity for a book, and one trend that has recently gained popularity is Instagram takeovers. For authors who aren’t familiar with Instagram, the platform can look incredibly complicated at first glance. Knowing the basics of the platform is crucial, especially given the frequency with which it’s updated. In this post I will offer tips to get your Instagram-newbie author ready for a takeover in no time!

  1. Get Them Familiar with the Platform
  2. Most takeovers usually happen on Instagram stories, but the buttons to add this content may not come across clearly. Make sure your author knows that in order to access this button, they will need to either swipe left or locate the circle at the top left of their screen. I always find that screenshots and examples are incredibly helpful in this step! A great way to get comfortable with this feature is to practice—have them create test posts on a private or personal account so that they have a better idea of what to do when the time comes. This will also allow you to gauge their understanding of the platform as well.

  3. Set Expectations
  4. The idea of a takeover may seem overwhelming to authors who don’t know what to expect. They may ask questions like “How often should I post?” and “What kind of content do I share?” Giving your author some guidelines can help soothe some of this anxiety. Let them know specifics like how often they should post (i.e. once an hour vs. ten posts total), what the time frame is for their takeover, and what you and your viewers expect to see during that time. Make sure they know what they are getting into. I always recommend that authors share fun facts about themselves, pictures of their pets, and other material that allows viewers to get to know them. This will look different for everyone, so make sure you are as clear as possible every step of the way.

  5. Communicate
  6. Given everything going on in the world with social distancing, virtual meetings, and geographical limitations, it is more important than ever to establish effective communication. While emailing back and forth is convenient, giving a step-by-step tutorial in text can be overwhelming. Sharing screens or having an audio connection is a great alternative that will help take stress off your author and make them feel like they aren’t alone in figuring this out.

  7. Know Your Resources
  8. One of the great things about the “new normal” of virtual meetings is that it is easier than ever to find a video tutorial that can do some of the work for you. This video by Louise Henry is very in-depth and effective at covering all of the options that Instagram stories has to offer. In his tutorial, Dusty Porter offers a quick, but thorough, rundown on Instagram stories. These are just a few examples, but you always have the option to take matters into your own hands and screen-record your own tutorials as well.

  9. When in Doubt, Take Over
  10. Some authors just won’t get the hang of Instagram, and that is okay! I recommend that you sit down with your author and plan out content that you can post for them: choose photos to share and create captions with together, or offer a Q&A session via email so followers can still have authentic engagement with the author. There are endless possibilities!

  11. Move On
  12. An Instagram takeover will not make or break a campaign, so if things really aren’t working out, then it’s time to move on. With that being said, always be patient and allow your author the time and space to acclimate to Instagram. Only move on as a last resort.

Instagram takeovers are a fun and low-stress marketing tool that anyone can take advantage of. With these tips, you may be able to help your author in a big way! Just make sure to do your own research, because in the world of social media, the platforms we know and love can change in an instant.

The Importance of Conscious Editing

The words that we use matter. Language holds incredible power, and harnessing it is a delicate process that requires hard work from both authors and editors. The fascinating thing about language is that it’s always changing and evolving alongside our societies, cultures, and ideologies. This is especially true of more sensitive (and powerful) language, like the kind we use to describe things like appearance, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Choosing the right words and using them well can uplift, empower, and support even our most vulnerable communities, but using the wrong words can just as easily do them harm. With this in mind, it is imperative that editors educate themselves on the best practices of conscious editing.
Before we dive into conscious editing, let’s discuss conscious language. To put it simply, this is language that has been thoughtfully chosen with an eye toward how the writing will be perceived by readers from various backgrounds. Karen Yin, founder of the Conscious Style Guide, describes it as “kind, compassionate, mindful, empowering, respectful, and inclusive language.” Regardless of what kind of copy you are editing, it will only benefit you to ensure that the words are carefully chosen by the author with an eye toward the way readers will perceive and interpret them. If an author has not considered how their writing might affect different groups who may encounter their work, it is the editor’s job to bring it to their attention in a respectful, yet firm way.
How does one edit consciously? One of the first steps is to consider what harm a manuscript or piece of copy is capable of producing. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does it contain language, descriptions, or dialogue that reinforces racist, anti-fat, homophobic, or xenophobic ideas?
  • Does it rely on harmful stereotypes of a particular group to make a point?
  • If a person or group is portrayed in the piece, how will they feel when they read it?
  • How will those portrayals affect others’ views of these people?

During this step it is important to consider your implicit biases—especially if you are a white, able-bodied, cisgender editor. Step outside of yourself and think about how this writing might affect more vulnerable communities. If the piece has the potential to cause harm, let the author know. Harmful portrayals often find their way into an author’s work without their explicit intention, so explaining it to them and offering suggestions for revision is essential. If the author is aware that their piece might do harm and refuses to revise it, or if the author explicitly intends to do harm, reconsider whether you want to be part of the project at all.
The best way to edit consciously is to make it a standard practice within your work and continuously educate yourself on best practices using reputable resources. The Conscious Style Guide is an excellent starting point, as is the Diversity Style Guide. Overall, being a conscious editor involves being aware of how language changes over time and updating terminology appropriately, self-education of your own biases and how to combat them, and a willingness to use your work to support equity and social justice.

Tips on Pairing Fonts

Good typography can make anything look good, but it can be hard to successfully pair your fonts. Creating contrast is the key to good font pairing. You can achieve contrast in many ways, and it is a lot simpler than you think. Here are a few tips on how you can successfully pair fonts without needing a degree in graphic design.

Use Different Weights of the Same Font

The easiest way to ensure that your typography choices look good together is to use different weights of the same font. You choose one typeface, and then utilize the different weights of that typeface to create contrast. A great example of this is using a bold weight for the header and a regular weight for the body. This method also creates consistency in your document/design because everything looks similar, but it’s just different enough to create contrast.

Use a Serif with a Sans Serif Font

A classic example of contrast is pairing a sans serif font with a serif font. These fonts compliment each other because sans serifs tend to be visually undetailed, while serifs have more visual detail. Another way to do this is to pair a script font with a serif font,
or a display font with a sans serif font. It is the balance of the visually detailed fonts with the less detailed fonts that makes these types of pairings successful.

Don’t Pair Fonts That are Too Similar, but Don’t Pair Fonts That are Vastly Different, Either

Pairing two fonts that look too similar is not a good choice because there is not enough contrast between the two. Fonts like Times New Roman and Georgia do not look good together because it’s difficult to tell them apart. At the same time, pairing two fonts that are too different can also backfire because the fonts express a confusing message when used together. Think of it like this: you wouldn’t match an old-western looking font with a sci-fi or modern font, would you?

Sometimes the Only Contrast is Size

Playing with different sizes of the same font is another simple way to create contrast. The trick is creating enough contrast between the sizes so that your information really stands out. Using a 24-point header and an 18-point body text might not create the emphasis that you are looking for, but a 36-point header with an 18-point body text will because there is more of a difference between the sizes, which creates a clear hierarchy of information.
You do not have to be a graphic designer to make beautiful and professional designs. Good typography can turn an okay design into a beautiful design with a few simple steps. You can utilize these steps for any type of document or content, whether it’s a resume, wedding invitation, or a book cover. Good typography signals authenticity, and it is an easy way to make anything look better.

A copy of the New York Times newspaper sits open and horizontal on a white table with a cup of black coffee next to it.

Cracking the Code of the NYT Best-Seller List

What is the secret combination to unlock a spot on the coveted New York Times best-seller list?
Believe it or not, there is a certain formula to finding your book amidst some of the nation’s best-selling authors, and it’s not just huge sales numbers. While success is not guaranteed, a behind-the-scenes look demystifies the ever-enigmatic selection process of the New York Times (NYT) best-seller staff.
Every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time, the New York Times best-seller list is published online. It’s then published in print eleven days later. While sales numbers are a factor in making the list, according to the best-seller staff at the New York Times, they also employ investigative journalism and other subjective measures to dole out the highly selective spots on the list.
Here are the basic facts of the list straight from the Times:

1. Each week, several thousand vendors confidentiality report sales data in myriad genres and interests in the United States. Large press, small press, and self-published titles are eligible for the list.

2. Data on millions of titles is reported from bookstores (including independent), online retailers, and specialty stores.

3. Print and/or ebook titles can be included; both formats are allowed. Audiobooks are included, based on the combination of both physical and digital copies.

4. Sales are defined as completed purchases by the buyer.

5. Books such as perennial sellers, class books and textbooks, journals, crosswords, ebooks available exclusively from a single vendor, etc., are not included in the list.

6. There are eleven weekly lists and seven monthly lists.

7. A book can be featured on the best-seller list and not in the Book Review, and vice versa.

8. Books published during a busy publication week face harder competition than books published during down times.

9. The best-seller staff is responsible for employing investigative journalism in order to detect manipulation or fraud. Parties frequently buy bulk orders of books in order to skew sales data. This practice is not illegal, but the NYT actively investigates circumstances to more accurately reflect the sales data.

10. The best-seller staff does not read every book they choose to reflect and rank on the charts; according to the NYT, sales data is the only factor.

However, in a lawsuit, the New York Times was sued for neglecting to reflect certain books on the charts. Their response is a direct hit at the claims of objectivity: “The list did not purport to be an objective compilation of information but instead was an editorial product.” Therefore, it must be noted that even after the vetting and research, the New York Times best-seller list is ultimately an editorial—subjective—list, rather than an all-encompassing objective reflection of current book consumers. The confidential reporting aids in reducing pressure on booksellers, but it still shades the number of actual reports the Times receives.
While not reported by the Times themselves, here are a few other “tricks” to get on the list as reported by Entrepreneur:

a. Preorder campaigns are extremely valuable. In order to reach the list, it is generally understood that a book needs over ten thousand preorders for consideration.

b. While five thousand copies purchased after publication could mean a spot on the list, most times five thousand does not apply for new and/or unknown authors. Further, those numbers over a week of sales mean more than the gross total of sales in a year.

c. The more mainstream press coverage a book receives, the more likely it is to be featured.

d. Legitimate bulk sales of books may flag the title as fraudulent during the NYT investigative process.

e. It is also reported that more reported sales selected by the Times come from independent bookstores rather than storefronts or online retailers. This can skew the readership, since books purchased at an indie bookstore could differ from what the masses are purchasing elsewhere at different prices.

Some best-seller lists include the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today best-seller lists. The former requires around three to five thousand copies, makes it easier for nontraditional published works to get featured, and is purely based on sales. The latter is more similar to the New York Times list in that it is curated to an extent, but it can include books excluded on the NYT list like cookbooks and game books.
Overall, award list notoriety can be dazzling, but it can also be a disappointment if that is the only baseline for success. For indie books, it is often better to focus on smaller literary awards, local awards, or other local press. The New York Times best-seller list is a good baseline for seeing what is selling from week to week, but it is not the end-all-be-all of the current publishing landscape. There are several thousand books that will never make the list, but will still win awards, win hearts, or just win support from your closest friends and family.

Front cover of the book Finding the Vein which portrays the title on a forested background.

Positive Predictions for FINDING THE VEIN

As of writing this, Finding the Vein is on the verge of publication and the entire team is so excited! We’ve been working on a number of things to ensure that the book has an excellent launch. Ooligan has partnered with Hood River’s favorite indie book retailer, Waucoma Bookstore, to host our virtual launch event. Our team has been hard at work creating content for our social media campaign, and we’re getting the word out through our local library partners. While this post will be going up after the launch for Finding the Vein has officially kicked off, rest assured that our team will keep the enthusiasm rolling as we continue to promote Ooligan Press’s first mystery novel.
The Finding the Vein team partnered with Waucoma Bookstore to host our Zoom launch event on April 20, 2021. As Ooligan’s third foray into digital launches, it was an interesting event to set up and gave our team members the opportunity to work with an independent bookstore to arrange an evening that would serve the interests of the press, the author, and the shop itself. The terms of the launch had to be negotiated carefully to ensure that everyone was happy with the outcomes.
Originally, the bookstore wanted to do a traditional Zoom room for the event to allow the audience to pop on camera and ask their questions during the Q&A. The case they made for this modality was in good spirits, and the bookstore representatives wanting to allow for a similar kind of audience engagement one would have at an in-person launch event is understandable. However, our team was concerned about some of the hazards this modality could pose to the event’s schedule and that it might cause lag if the event was well attended. Most of us are familiar with Zoom-era horror stories of someone forgetting to turn off their microphone or have experienced firsthand the bandwidth problems of having too many cameras on at once. On top of that, we were also concerned that if people decided to keep their cameras on that it could distract from the author and do a disservice to the launch experience. Lastly, we were worried that the chat, which we wouldn’t be able to disable in a standard session, would also distract from the questions audience members wanted to ask. It took us a bit, but we got everyone on board with a webinar format instead as it would bypass so many of the problems we were hoping to avoid. Of course, by the time this blog is released, the event will have already happened, and because of the team’s careful planning and dedication to quality, I’m certain that it will have been a hit!
The Finding the Vein team is also hard at work creating engaging social media content both for the launch event and for the weeks following the launch. We’re leaning heavily into the mystery plot and imagery of the Pacific Northwest for our campaign, tapping into some of the most celebrated themes of the book to engage readers. On top of social media, Oolies have been distributing posters throughout the city to advertise the launch, using the beautiful Oolie-designed cover to catch the eyes of passersby. We’re not alone in promoting Finding the Vein as our partners at the Multnomah County Library Writers Project are also busily working to distribute the book through their system and help increase patron awareness of it once it officially launches.
With the launch of Finding the Vein, it’s only natural for one to think: “What’s next?” We have an exciting new project on the horizon—but all I can tell you right now is that it’s going to be awesome. The incoming project manager, Wren Haines, will be taking over for the outgoing manager, the amazing Bailey Potter, at the end of the term and they will be announcing the new project in detail soon! So stay tuned to Ooligan’s official channels for an update about next year’s Library Writers Project release.
Finding the Vein launched on April 20, 2021, in both trade paperback and ebook formats. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

An outstretched hand holding a microphone against a green background

The Dilemma of Fact-Checking

I think we can all agree that fact-checking is important. There have been several high-profile cases over the past few years that have had authors and publishers scrambling to make sure their books are perfect. Overlooking fact-checking can lead to an ill-received book at best and a controversial book at worst.
For example, New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson wrote a book titled Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts which “sparked a major controversy when multiple people featured in the book said she had misrepresented them.” Some of these stories included misgendering (which was later fixed), instructions given to a reporter regarding personal protective equipment during the Ebola outbreak, and the fact that people were never contacted by a fact-checker after their initial interviews.
Now where’s the problem with that? According to The Chicago Manual of Style:

In book publishing, the author is finally responsible for the accuracy of a work; most book publishers do not perform fact-checking in any systematic way or expect it of their manuscript editors unless specifically agreed upon up front. Nonetheless, obvious errors, including errors in mathematical calculations, should always be pointed out to the author, and questionable proper names, bibliographic references, and the like should be checked and any apparent irregularities queried.

However, according to Abramson’s title as executive editor at the New York Times, one would think she would be a qualified person to speak on fact-checking in journalism and would fact-check her book about fact-checking. But the dilemma here is that fact-checking is a time-consuming, expensive project to take on. Some books will be easier to fact-check than others—a fantasy set in a new world won’t need much, if at all. On the other hand, a book about climate change would need a lot of fact-checking in order to be portrayed as an accurate source of information. According to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the going rate for freelance fact checkers is forty-six to fifty dollars an hour. That’s a lot of money for many authors. Not everyone is going to have large advances or people backing them, nor is everyone simply rich. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds including stay-at-home parents, teachers, and students. It may not be in their budget to pay someone forty dollars an hour to check work when they’re already pretty certain they’re portraying the facts as accurately as possible.
The Chicago Manual of Style does state that glaring issues should be pointed out to the author. Even though the brunt of the responsibility is placed on the author, it doesn’t mean that publishing houses can turn a blind eye to something they know is incorrect. But, if that’s the case, why don’t publishing houses just foot the bill for fact-checking? For starters, it means they aren’t liable if a controversy does happen. All of that responsibility has fallen to the author and while the publishing house may get some backlash, they can ultimately say that it wasn’t their fault. Another reason is simply that it’s an expensive process. When you’re a larger press, a good chunk of your money is going toward paying royalties from the author and promoting the book. At a small press, it’s mostly just printing and promoting the book.
Publishers are beginning to look more into fact-checking! Whether it be hiring fact-checkers or, in Ooligan’s case, having a team dedicated to fact-checking manuscripts, the publishing world is shifting so that the responsibility is on both parties. While the author ultimately needs to be fact-checking, publishers cannot overlook fact-checkers and just assume that authors have done their research anymore. Doing so will leave a big, red mark on their backlist that can never be removed.

A drawing of two people with flowers in their hair and text next to them that reads "Take care of yourself so you have space to care for others."

How To Stay Sane in the Publishing Industry

Okay, so we all know COVID-19 is happening right now, right? We’re all caught up, we all get the gist? Keep your mask on, stay six feet apart, wash your hands for twenty seconds, try to isolate—do I have to keep going? I think we should all have caught on to this massive world event by now.
Yes? Great.
The first few months of isolation weren’t terrible. I’m pretty sure we all had the same mind set: I’m going to get fit, make some banana bread, and get my life together. That didn’t happen.
Then we hit four months. Reality really set in, and I realized I actually hate banana bread.
Suddenly we were at nine months: “Holy crap, this winter was awful, there is so much upset in the world and I have no hope. What are we going to do? Should I try to make banana bread again?”
Now we’re at twelve months: “I don’t even remember what real life is anymore. GIVE ME THE VACCINE.”
Staying sane in these tumultuous times and just living through the fact that we are in a massive disaster has been . . . less than easy. Every industry is being hit hard, and the publishing industry isn’t doing any better than the rest of them—especially independent presses who were struggling to get by in the first place. On top of it, no one can even cry with their friends over the struggles unless they schedule a Zoom meeting.
So what’s someone in this book publishing program to do? The people here are in grad school, working full time at Ooligan Press, living through a pandemic and social uprising, and some of them are even writing a thesis. Where’s the time for self-care?
In truth, self-care can be found in boundaries. It’s easy to let work and education overwhelm you, especially in this time of isolation we find ourselves in. There are so many things to do in the press, in classes, and in our own lives that we can lose the time we need to, well, take time. It can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or minutes in the hours we get, to just take time for ourselves—but there are when you add boundaries.
When I first came to Ooligan, I would lose my day to editing assignments or overthinking mini-essays for classes. I suddenly didn’t have time to grab a beer with friends or hike that one trail, and it was all because I refused to establish the boundaries that are needed in everyday life.
Now I only work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekdays unless there’s an emergency and I make sure to go on walks during my lunch. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have time to work on my next art project or even stretch my legs. In the end, the change in comma placement can wait and the concern about proper ISBNs isn’t an absolute emergency.
If boundaries aren’t established with work, school, and social life, then you don’t have time to focus on what really needs your attention. You.

Sign that says time for change with led lights in background.

Demanding Diversity with BookTube

BookTubers are a well-known part of the book-loving community. BookTube is the place on YouTube people go to hear others rave about books they love or discuss all things wrong with the books they don’t. Throw in some fun bookish tags and it is the perfect space for readers to get more content when they aren’t curled up with a book. That being said, BookTube has gone through some important changes over the years and one vital change is that the personalities and faces of these channels are becoming more and more diverse.
Diversity is something the publishing industry has long struggled with, but BookTube isn’t letting that stop them. Anyone who has a passion or an interest can upload a video onto YouTube, and that is no different for the book community. These videos afford BookTubers an audience and platform to speak their minds and call for change, much like the creator Christina Mitchell does consistently. Mitchell’s channel takes the issue of lack of diversity head on and calls out the community in dedicated videos. One video, which criticized the attendance of BookCon, resulted in the Con giving her a panel to speak on issues that concern her, such as diversity.
Mitchell’s example of speaking out isn’t the only headway the community is making on diversity. YouTube recently released a trailer for a BookTube video featuring David Sedaris. While Sedaris is highlighted, this video also features a panel of numerous BookTubers including Cindy Pham, Joel Kim Booster, Jake Roper, and Francine Simone, a small selection of people that still showed a more diverse set of content creators from the platform. This support from YouTube itself shows that people are taking notice and their platforms are just as successful as the white creators from BookTube’s inception. This is also a show of growth as YouTube’s previous feature with Michelle Obama consisted of a largely white panel of BookTubers. A HuffPost article was even written with Black BookTubers criticising the choices of creators included in this video and the missed opportunity YouTube had to highlight a marginalized group of the book community. These outspoken creators are a huge part of the visibility of these issues and a huge step into holding the publishing industry as a whole accountable.
BookTubers aren’t just making callout videos—they are also uplifting authors and books that are already representative of the diversity they seek. They are still coming up with popular BookTube content while also featuring people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and so much more. For example, Cindy Pham from readwithcindy even posts an annual Asian readathon in the month of May to highlight Asian Heritage Month. This event is specifically targeted for Asian authors, characters, or both. These creators are using their platforms to both create a positive and fun space for book lovers while also giving a spotlight to issues they care about. These content creators are unapologetically calling for change out of love for reading, something their audiences can no doubt identify with. BookTubers are making it quite clear that they won’t stand for the industry’s lack of diversity, and with their impact we can look forward to how that will change the face of the industry in the years to come.

Image of laptop with a plant leaf in top left corner. On the desk is a tablet with the words "online book marketing" and a graph. A pair of glasses are to the right of the tablet and a cup of coffee is above them.

Reinventing the Market for Classic Novels

What makes an old book new—at least in the eyes of the consumer? Publishers of classic novels face the distinct challenge of marketing books that have already been extensively read, loved, discussed, and marketed. More often than not, publishers are not selling the content of the book—after all, the words are already tried and true—they are selling the experience.
The New York Times best seller list is ever changing, with new books entering the lineup every week. Most books do not stay in the public eye for more than a year or two before they are replaced by the next best novel or the newest hot author. However, there are some novels that never sway from mass public consumption, withstanding not only the test of time, but also the constant influx of current best sellers. Novels such as Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Dracula, as well as collections of short stories by Virginia Woolf, poetry by Emily Dickinson, and plays by William Shakespeare are all shelved neatly together, collectively given the term “classics.”
These novels are, in a sense, timeless; they coined phrases and pioneered ideas that are still being gleaned from today. However, while these novels remain popular well after their initial publication, what keeps them flying off the racks, so to speak? How do publishing houses convince a consumer to purchase their seventh copy of To Kill a Mockingbird? Publishers have had to reinvigorate and, on occasion, redesign the market for classic literature. Using book cover redesign, contemporary author introductions, and celebrity audiobook performers, publishers have had to get creative in order to keep classics afloat amid the tide of new releases.
Penguin and Puffin Classics are great examples of how publishers can use a book jacket revamp. According to children’s book publisher Sharon Cullen, an old classic can get a facelift with a new cover: “From Treasure Island and Heidi to the Secret Garden and The Wizard of Oz, these books have been firm favorites of children across the generations and their striking new jackets will ensure they remain popular for many years.” After all, a dazzling new book cover for a classic like Dracula could convince both a reader who already owns a copy (but a different version) and one who does not have it to pick it off the shelves, even when surrounded by new releases.
Modern Library, a renowned publisher of classics, has a history of bringing new life to their classic catalog. In 2000, they published a series of classics with newly added introductions by contemporary authors of the time. More recently in 2019, they launched a series of classics “penned by women.” Via Publishers Weekly, “the series, the publisher said, will ‘honor a more inclusive vision of classic books’ by ‘recognizing women who wrote on their own terms, with boldness, creativity, and a spirit of resistance.'” Furthermore, Modern Library repackaged the included novels with redesigned covers and introductions by contemporary women writers.
On a more digital aspect, publishers and businesses have experimented with adding celebrity names to audiobooks and ebooks. According to Publishers Weekly, in 2012, “released the first of four planned waves in their ‘A-List Collection,’ audiobooks of classic literature read by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.” For example, Anne Hathaway read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, while Samuel L. Jackson read A Rage in Heaven by Chester Himes. While the authors themselves have varying degrees of public recognition, actors such as those listed above afford both a great fanbase and a sense of intrigue to the audiobooks. In 2020, Audible advertised Little Women performed by Laura Dern and The Great Gatsby narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Many of the sales techniques and strategies surrounding the market for classics are conditional based on specific moments occurring during the period in which the books are being sold. Much like book covers and marketing campaigns, the novels themselves need to be positioned toward cultural, political, and current social themes. Classic novels will always carry a sense of nostalgia, while also bringing about a wave of timelessness with each turn of the page. However, while such novels will continue to be taught in curriculums and read by aficionados, the classics continue to need facelifts and facetunes in order to be repurchased and re-digested by the masses. Classic novels have managed to not only stay afloat in modern times, but to also make new waves and their own splashes within the tumultuous sea of best sellers, new releases, and backlist titles.