Which Ooligan Book Matches Your Zodiac Sign?

Aries: Leader, Brave, Prepared
Faultland

Faultland tells the story of the three Sparrow siblings who must come together in the wake of a life-shattering earthquake. This book is all about being prepared for the unthinkable, and there is no better sign more equipped for the task than Aries. Like the characters in Faultland, Aries are bold, ambitious, and determined to survive.
Taurus: Stable, Devoted, Patient
Elephant Speak

Much like an elephant, Tauruses have incredible memories and aren’t likely to forget the small details. As you will read in Elephant Speak, trust is the key to winning over a herd of elephants in the Oregon Zoo. Their keeper, Roger Henneous, exhibited the core traits of any Taurus: ambition, honesty, and reliability.
Gemini: Adaptable, Adventurous, Curious
The Step Back

Ed handles whatever life throws his way, even making a 3-pointer every now and then. Like a true Gemini, he is impulsive and changes the direction of his life at the drop of a basketball, but he never gives up. Gemini’s are all about change, transformation, and opportunity, just like Ed finds in The Step Back.
Cancer: Sensitive, Intuitive, Protective
Laurel Everywhere

Like any true Cancer, family means everything to Laurel Summers. When her mother and siblings die in a car crash, Laurel must rebuild her home with her father. While coping with her incredible loss, Laurel is often haunted by ever-changing moods and grief, but at the heart of it all, she finds comfort and healing in her family and friends.
Leo: Warm, Passionate, Dynamic
Iditarod Nights

There is no better sign to warm you up on a cold Iditarod night than a Leo. Leos are fiercely brave and set out to dominate whatever task is at hand, making them the perfect sign to face the harsh and bitter Iditarod. Claire and Dillion won’t stop until they reach Nome, but they’ll find comfort in each other’s arms wherever they go.
Virgo: Logical, Intelligent, Observant
Finding the Vein

Virgos can’t resist a problem that needs fixing or a mystery to solve, making them the clear detective of the bunch. While investigating a murder at a summer camp for adoptees, Sergeant Mikie and fellow camper Isaac must sort through rumors and facts, channeling the attention to detail and perfection of a Virgo. Beneath the haze of suspicion, Finding the Vein is a story about acceptance and identity, with a passion for the truth.
Libra: Empathetic, Charming, Social
The Gifts We Keep

Five different people find themselves part of the same entrancing story that you won’t be able to forget in The Gifts We Keep. Much like a Libra, this story is balanced by love and loss, escape and home, and the sadness and happiness of being part of a family. Empathy and strong hearts are favored here.
Scorpio: Loyal, Determined, Bold
The Names We Take

A true Scorpio would never leave someone behind, and neither will Pip, even when faced with unspeakable trials and tribulations in The Names We Take. In a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by plague, she has no choice but to keep her and her friends alive. There is no doubt that out of all the signs, Scorpios would rule an apocalypse with style and ease, even finding a family along the way.
Sagittarius: Optimistic, Honest, Free
The Ocean in My Ears

Meri Miller lives in Soldotna, a decidedly small and boring fishing town in Alaska. Like any Sagittarius, she dreams of escaping to a far, distant, and way more exciting city. The destination doesn’t matter, as long as it’s new and the ride is great Even when the going gets tough and the days are dark, Meri is tougher and brighter, always looking for the silver lining amongst the clouds.
Capricorn: Ambitious, Serious, Helpful
Breaking Cadence

Standing up for justice and embracing her morals, Rose del Duca is not only a soldier in the National Guard, but also a conscious objector. Pragmatic and morally driven Capricorns are reflected in del Duca’s powerful vocalization of her beliefs. She is torn between duty and conscience, and is constantly testing her strength to its limits and breaking cadence.
Aquarius: Unique, Resilient, Surprising
Odsburg

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the odd one out in a room full of people. As an Aquarius, you are used to being you; some may describe you as being witty, original, and eccentric, but these are also words used to describe Odsburg. Take a journey with the self-proclaimed “socio-anthropo-lingui-loreologist” as he ventures into a fictional land, collecting ephemera and outlandish stories from its inhabitants. Perfect for the curious and creative Aquarius, this one is sure to redefine your reality.
Pisces: Generous, Emotional, Creative
At the Waterline

Forever the romantic, the one with the grand gestures, and the one with the dreamy eyes, a Pisces is often miles away or underwater, reminiscing in memories and submerged in thought. Divorced and haunted by tragedy, Chad once had romantic notions of a sailing life, but he now lives along the river just north of Portland. Meeting the colorful locals and learning about their lives, Chad learns once again to love, trust, and heal at the waterline.

Thumb hovering over Instagram app on a smart phone.

Learning the ABCs of Bookstagram

I started my bookstagram page at the end of September 2020. In under half a year, I have amassed 3,400 plus followers, held conversations with some of my favorite authors, and made many bookish friends. There are many tips and tricks only accessible to those engaging with other accounts, consuming a lot of content, and running an actual bookstagram account. Thus, I have gathered my most useful tips and tricks on how to create, operate, and brand a successful bookstagram account.

  1. Realize your definition of success.
    1. What do you want to get out of your account? Do likes matter? Do followers matter?
    2. Know your own value. Likes and followers only hold the weight you place on them. Big or small, this account is ultimately for you!
  2. Develop your content strategy.
    1. Will you be posting book reviews? Do you want your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and uniform in style or color? Will you post other content besides books?
    2. Many followers first engage with your image—this is Instagram, after all. Having good lighting and photo quality are a great first step to running a professional account. Many bookstagrammers use props like fake flowers, bookish merch, and other knickknacks to create a theme, while others use a consistent filter or color scheme.
    3. Your inaugural post is a great way to introduce yourself to the bookstagram community! Why did you choose to begin? What books do you like? Why is your account unique?
  3. Design your profile.
    1. Start with your account name, a.k.a. your @ handle. Making it book related helps alert others to your interests.
    2. Another critical part of your account is the profile picture. Some choose to pay for a designed logo, but you can make your own in many different apps, Adobe Creative Cloud, or even Word. A picture of books or you with books would work, just make sure it is recognizably your account. This is your chance to stand out!
    3. Many times people decide to follow and follow back based on your @ handle, profile picture, and bio. If you choose a random selfie or obscure name, other bookstagrammers may not recognize your account as a book page.
    4. You have the option to switch your account to a “business profile.” It is not required, but it can be worthwhile because you are able to see the best times to post, the demographics of your followers, and engagement rates of your posts.
    5. You can also create highlights on your profile from the Instagram story feature. You are able to further brand your account by creating cover images for different highlights.
  4. Extra tips.
    1. Engage. With. Other. Accounts. If you follow an account, like a few of their photos, and even comment, they are more likely to return the favor! You will also create friendships and start to carve out your own space in the bookstagram community.
    2. A big part of success on Instagram (and beating the algorithm) is consistency. Most recommend posting at least once a day. However, post as much or as little as you can manage. Do not overwhelm yourself!
    3. If you choose to use hashtags on your posts, choose ones with fewer than fifteen thousand posts and more than one thousand. This will help your post be shown to more accounts.
    4. There are many apps you can employ to help you. Instagram layout apps are great for planning your feed, follower apps can help you keep track of any spam accounts or bots, and editing apps can make your images pop!
    5. Follow trains are useful for beginners looking to make new friends and find new accounts to follow; you can often find them under hashtags and around general bookstagram.
    6. Do not follow too many accounts or like too many posts in a short period of time, especially when you have a new Instagram account. They will temporarily block your account. Since the numbers frequently change, you can google the current Instagram algorithm and rules.

Ultimately, successful accounts bring something new to the table! Convey your unique voice via your reviews, use unique props, or just find your people. If you are confused about any steps or features of Instagram, Google will most likely have the answer. You are also free to message me on Instagram, @fringebookreviews, and I will try to address your questions! You can also use my account as an example. Good luck, and happy reading!

Book Subscription Boxes Offer an Alternative to Browsing Bookstore Shelves this Holiday Season (And Beyond)

The holidays are here. Festive city squares are displaying trees lit with tasteful white lights, and our marching band kiddos have asked us to buy pies or wreathes to support their teams. In past holiday seasons I have loved walking, wrapped in a knitted scarf, from the chilly city street or suburban stripmall sidewalk, past a musician strumming a guitar or beating a drum, and through charming glass or wooden doors into the warm space of a bustling retail bookshop, illuminated by soft yellow lights.

And now? Well, now I rarely go inside any stores, opting for delivery and curbside pickup. I tend to wince, seemingly irrationally, when I accidentally walk the wrong direction down a grocery store aisle per the masking tape arrows. Yesterday, I found myself asking the cashier at the liquor store if they had any hand sanitizer I could use. COVID-19 has got me like that.

I buy my groceries online. Every twelve weeks, twenty-four rolls of toilet paper are delivered to my front doorstep. I no longer need to carry the bulky, soft, plastic-wrapped packages through the checkout lane to my car, or through the hilly neighborhood to my second-story apartment. I like that. I’ve also been receiving a new pair of super cute, super soft underwear sent to me monthly since April.

Subscription boxes—the recurring delivery of goods—are, in my opinion, a vital part of the marketing and distribution of a product or service. And. They. Are. Convenient. And fun.

So why not feed readers’ chronic bibliophilia with book subscription boxes? In general, shopping habits have been changing for years, and COVID-19 has greatly amplified this. The book-shopping experience will need to transition into a new realm where local and indie bookstore owners send their bookish vibes into the hands and homes of their customers. Maybe every other month, or four times a year, a reader’s favorite local bookstore ships them a pile of used books, a new hardcover must-read, books from featured or local authors, some cute bookish socks, and a new notebook or a calendar. Maybe they could throw in an old bookstore–scented candle (Is that a thing? Powell’s has made that a thing.), or a traveling poet’s self-published chapbook. The product combinations, I imagine, are endless.

Delivery subscriptions for things like dinner prep kits, sustainable toilet paper, murder mystery games, and even locally roasted coffee beans have become increasingly popular since at least 2003. Forbes reported that in “April 2017, subscription company websites had about 37 million visitors. Since 2014, that number [had] grown by over 800 percent.” I wonder what the numbers are today, in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, with kids learning from home, many folks working remotely or unemployed altogether, elders isolated from loved ones, and people simply staying away from other people (in the best of circumstances).

COVID-19 continues to change lifestyles and restrict in-person contact. People may not be able to shop at their favorite bookstores (or any stores) without potentially waiting in a line outside the brick and mortar or needing to proactively set an appointment. A box of books and other goodies being delivered right to readers can bring the bookstore vibes to their homes, and can keep us consuming the titles that flood our wish lists and the titles we had no idea we needed.

Some booksellers have been dabbling in book subscription boxes for a while. For about fifty bucks, every six to eight weeks, Powell’s Books will ship subscribers a new title from an independent publisher. Their Indiespensable subscription club is well-reviewed (and out of stock). I am definitely adding their next installment to my wish list! Also, a charming local bookstore in Delaware is running The Book Drop, a monthly book subscription where adult readers get a wrapped, paperback book to pair with coffee, tea, or bubbly, and kids have options too.

I’m into it.

I am expecting to see more (like all my favorite) independent bookstores offering some form of niche subscription boxes for their book-loving readers. Bookstores, small and large, need to get their inventories online and offer more accessibility—as well as some customizable options—for these subscriptions.

A Marketing Tool for Indie Publishers and Authors Alike

“Tell us what titles or genres you’ve enjoyed in the past, and we’ll give you surprisingly insightful recommendations.”

In December 2006, many things were happening around the world. NASA revealed photographs supporting the theory of water on Mars, an adult giant squid was captured on video, and the dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was auctioned to charity for $923,187. Another notable December 2006 occurrence was the creation of the online book catalog and recommendation resource, Goodreads.

Goodreads allows users to keep track of books they’ve read, books they want to read, and the reading journeys of other registered users. Users are able to interact with each other while getting consistent recommendations from both a Goodreads algorithm and the ever-updating feed from their friends on the website or app. While Goodreads is a wonderful resource for readers, it also houses a very lucrative market for indie publishers and authors. Through the Goodreads author program, Q&A groups, word of mouth, and the Goodreads recommendation engine, indie publishers and authors are able to establish a presence among the bigger five guns in the publishing world.

Goodreads Author Program

Per Goodreads, the author program is “designed for authors to have a profile on the site and interact with fans, and add photos, videos, or events to their profiles.” Using Goodreads as a sort of social media platform, authors are able to cultivate a following and stay connected with their readers. They can even update readers on what they are reading, since most authors are—at a fundamental level—readers too. Authors can post reviews or favorite quotes, or even create lists of favorite books.

Q&A Groups

Authors can also host a Q&A group to answer questions and interact with their fans. Any followers of the author are notified via their inbox to submit a question, promoting the new release. There are seven million users on Goodreads and it is very worthwhile for authors (either publishing independently or through an indie press) to interact with them! Another program, Ask the Authors, allows authors to engage with their readers from their author dashboard.

How do books get discovered? This pie chart distinguishes between the various methods Goodreads members use to find books on the site.

states that they “require such a threshold to guarantee they know enough about a book to be statistically comfortable recommending it.” Ratings and reviews on books, especially indie titles, matter!

Using programs such as LibraryThing and Eidelweiss offer the option to implore early reviewers to review books on websites such as Goodreads. Having a strong baseline of early reviews helps a title tremendously when looking to market it on Goodreads.

Furthermore, Goodreads notes that if there is a strong comparable title to a new release and a publisher or author is able to market their book to the readers of the other title—and the readers respond by adding the new book to their goodreads account—the recommendation engine will notice this correlation and be even more likely to suggest the book to the right readers.

Where do people initially hear about the books they read?

Friends are one of the best methods of new book discovery.

Indie Portland Bookstores During COVID-19

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many small businesses are facing hardships due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. In Portland, however, small independent bookstores are changing the way they operate in order to stay open. Below is a list of local booksellers that are using their online presence to their advantage during these difficult times:

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the stores that are staying open due to the patronage of their communities.

How are they operating behind closed doors? Most of these stores are now offering free shipping and, in some cases, free delivery or curbside pickups. However, these models are continually changing as the guidelines and procedures for safe transactions continue to be updated. Many of these small stores do not have a robust online catalog, which means that in order to get your books, you must speak directly with an employee in the store who can let you know what they have in stock and make recommendations. In this way—even though they don’t have the backing of larger chains who might have more employees available to ship books—these small independent stores are giving customers the service and care they always do, and making the extra effort to keep their communities safe.

Another thing to consider is how these companies are advertising to their customers during this time. We know people are not supposed to leave their homes unless it is essential, so how are stores getting the word out? Social media has been a key component in this process, beyond just a simple telephone call. As more and more people find themselves stuck at home with little else to do but skim their phones, these stores have utilized their advertising on social media platforms in order to keep the word out about their options. From posting funny quips to sharing ideas for family-friendly reading activities, these stores have been going above and beyond to reach their communities, all while fielding business in a challenging new way. A few of the bookstores have requests on their websites for customers to be patient when it comes to ordering and receiving their books. For a lot of people, that is no problem at all, because there is a lot of time to wait for a book these days.

Their ability to adapt is a testament to the ways independent bookstores go above and beyond to stay in business. During all of this chaos, it’s still important to be able to sit down and read a good book—and as people are stocking up on necessities, they’re starting to consider that as well. So as you consider the small businesses you’re supporting during this time, keep these bookstores in mind.

Brick and Paper: Why Indie Publishers Are Opening Bookstores

A few years ago, it seemed like bookstores were on their way out; with the rise of ebooks and fast shipping speeds, many bookstores seemed to be struggling to hold on. We began to see a rise in community-driven bookstores—local legends who rely on foot traffic in their neighborhoods. In Portland, we see this with Broadway Books, Mother Foucault’s, Annie Bloom’s, and my place of work, Wallace Books. These stores have an avid customer base of people who go out of their way to bring their business to local shops. Bookselling is often very seasonal: most of the stock is sold around the holiday season, creating the majority of the budget for the whole year. Therefore, a lot of bookstores double as other kinds of businesses—such as cafes, rentable community spaces, or bars—in order to offset the seasonality of the store itself.

Along those lines, within the past few years, there has been a rise in independent publishers opening their own brick-and-mortar shops. By combining a bookstore and a publishing house, a company can bring in profits at different times and stay informed about what is selling on the market. Places like Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis, Curbside Splendor in Chicago, and Deep Vellum in Texas have found that having a bookstore in addition to a press can be beneficial to publishing as well. This is partly due to the aforementioned community-driven angle behind local bookstores: by opening a brick-and-mortar store, a publisher can see a rise in community support not only for their shop but also for their publishing house (although this is perhaps contingent on the relationships that the booksellers build with the community).

The bulk of articles that I’ve read on the matter were published in 2016, which was when the trend of crossovers between publishers and bookstores seemed more visible. The catalyst for opening a storefront has been different in each case: maybe a convenient space opened up, or maybe the company had a clear vision of starting a bookstore all along. For publishers like Curbside Splendor, it seems like this mission has expanded into a passion for introducing customers to different independent presses and helping them find books they never knew existed. In an article on Literary Hub, Naomi Huffman, editor in chief of Curbside Splendor, says, “Our focus is on delivering literature to people who don’t know what they’re looking for and maybe don’t even know it exists. Indies are publishing the best literature today, so the opportunity to tell more people about it is very exciting.” With the addition of a bookstore, there is more of a chance to help put books in people’s hands, and the whole small-indie publishing community benefits if the store is focused on selling just those titles.

Booksellers can only be successful if their knowledge of books is strong; they often have insight into what sells and how based on their observations of the customer’s selection process in the store. By founding bookstores around indie presses, booksellers are able to specialize in a certain type of book. With a knowledgeable staff, they can sell more previously unknown books by recommendation.

While this is not a viable option for every independent press out there, opening a bookstore has proven to be beneficial for a handful of publishers. Bookstores can help build support for a writer or a press because these establishments are often an important part of the community.