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.
Research
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.
Rhetoric
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.”
Structure
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.
Concision
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.

FAULTLAND's red book cover featuring a map of Portland in the shape of a piano.

FAULTLAND Shakes Up Social Media

Ooligan Press is in a flurry of excitement over all the new projects coming out in the next few months, and the Faultland team is busy at the frontlines of it all. Ooligan’s newest speculative fiction novel is the next book on our release schedule and is due to hit shelves on March 30, 2021! Behind the scenes, the team is working hard developing new ways to promote the novel online and coming up with original ideas for how to get more readers to engage with the book through the Ooligan social media channels.

Faultland is set in a near-future Portland that is rocked by a major earthquake. While not Ooligan’s first foray into speculative fiction, Faultland is unlike anything we’ve published before. Author Suzy Vitello masterfully combines future-tech and family drama to bring her “what if” landscape of a not-so-distant Portland to life before razing it to the ground. When the city is hit by the Portland Hills Fault earthquake, siblings Morgan, Olivia, and Sherman are faced with keeping their family alive following one of the worst natural disasters in living memory. Once separated by secrets and resentment, the Sparrow family realize they are now united by survival.

Right now, the Sparrow family’s survival is at the forefront of the book’s online presence as Faultland moves into the all-important social media phase of our production cycle. While each step of a title’s development helps Oolies hone their publishing skills, there are few moments in a book’s lifecycle that allow us to be as creative as social media, so our team is using this moment to put all of our creativity to good use. We knew early on that Faultland was the kind of book that could carry a strong and unconventional social media presence, and our Oolies are busily working away to demonstrate just how accurate that prediction was. The whole team is committing their efforts to creating engaging copy and images to generate interest in the book, and all the while they’re sprinkling in their favorite quotes and excerpts from our fantastic early reviewers to make their posts really pop.

While there are few specific parameters around what topics the team members are able to talk about in their posts, most have been focusing on the landscapes that the author, Portland local Vitello, creates in the book. We see the city both before and after the earthquake shatters it, filtered through the eyes of the narrators in quotes and in images created by the team. Another focus has been on the subject of emergency preparedness, with many early readers of the book internalizing the warning at the heart of the novel—that being ready for this kind of emergency can lessen the physical, emotional, and mental toll that just such an event takes on all of us. Several posts link to preparedness guidelines through the CDC, Red Cross, and other emergency agencies in order to guide readers to resources that the Sparrow siblings don’t have access to in the novel.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this social media initiative is our advanced planning for an upcoming scavenger hunt to get readers even more excited when the book launches. That’s right, the Faultland team is busy working on an emergency preparedness–themed scavenger hunt that will allow fans in the Portland area to follow along with Olivia’s journey after the book officially hits shelves. While the specific details for this initiative will remain a secret until we get closer to the book launch, the Faultland team will be centralizing Ooligan social media channels to get it off the ground and get readers engaged.

Stay tuned into Ooligan’s social media at @ooliganpress on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest news about what’s on the horizon for Faultland and to see some of the incredible work the team has put together there.

Reaching Unconventional Contacts

Welcome back to Finding the Vein by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde, Ooligan’s third title in the Library Writers Project, our partnership with Multnomah County Library. Ooligan’s first mystery title follows two detectives, a teen sleuth and a police sergeant, as they and their respective partners-in-crime (or in-justice, as the case may be) investigate a camp counselor’s death. In addition to the multiple potential murderers and classic mystery genre red herrings, Finding the Vein is filled with comedy and heart.

When we developed the marketing plan for this book, we included unconventional contacts that were appropriate for the themes in Finding the Vein. These included adoption associations, libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, in addition to the typical contacts that a project team collects such as national and regional publications and magazines, independent bookstores, individual bloggers and book reviewers on social media, and podcasts. Our question was this: How do we reach the unconventional ones? Thankfully, some of the libraries are already taken care of through our partnership with LWP: Multnomah County Library purchases a few copies of the LWP books as they are published to distribute among Multnomah County’s library branches. For the adoption associations, other libraries, book clubs, and summer camps, though, we needed to get more creative. Due to COVID-19, our options were limited because we didn’t have the usual physical collateral that teams include in a sales kit.

We decided that we needed to design something versatile that could be used both physically and virtually in both our marketing and social media campaigns, and we came up with the idea of designing a summer camp–themed postcard. We have a small budget set aside for collateral, which we haven’t used yet, so this is a completely doable strategy. First, we’ll send our contacts an email that informs them of the forthcoming Finding the Vein, gives a summary of the book, describes why it may be of interest to them, and encourages them to tell their colleagues about it. If we get a response, we will send them a physical postcard; that way we don’t waste any by sending them to contacts who won’t be interested or informed of its relevance beforehand. Hopefully we will receive more sales through these connections. At most, we may receive a couple of reviews or an announcement in a newsletter out of our efforts, both of which would be fantastic to have from these more specialized contacts.

The additional benefit of designing a postcard is that we can use it virtually as well. I’ll be sending it to Jennifer, the author, in case she’d like to use it during her email preorder campaign in the early spring of 2021, as well as for usage on her website and blog. They can also be printed out and used as flyers, so we’ll be sure to send the independent bookstores and libraries on our contact list a virtual copy as well. Lastly, the design can be used as an image on social media. Through the combined usage of the postcard design, we are essentially creating an immediately recognizable image that nearly every one of our contacts (and their associates) will eventually see in some format. This ensures that if they or a member of our intended audience sees Finding the Vein on a bookshelf or an online store, they will be that much more likely to purchase it, and in turn, tell others about it.

I’m excited to see how our postcard campaign moves forward, and I can’t wait to see its results!

Finding the Vein will launch 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.

The Mystery Behind the Mystery Genre

Overseeing the process of publishing Ooligan’s third title in our partnership with Multnomah County Library and their Library Writers Project has been a whirlwind of mystery and excitement so far. From designing the cover to crafting our marketing plan, Finding the Vein has shown how different the publishing process can be for different genres. As a reminder, Finding the Vein is written by Jennifer Hanlon Wilde and is about a murder at a summer camp for adopted international children. After a well-liked counselor mysteriously dies, camper Isaac and his new friend Hal—a duo not unlike Sherlock Holmes and John Watson—begin to theorize with their fellow campers what could have happened. Sergeant Mikie O’Malley is called to the scene to investigate the case and, due to the nature of the camp, is reminded of her recent discovery that she and her father are not biologically related. Soon, both the amateur and professional detectives come to the conclusion that Paul was murdered. The question is how. All parties involved slowly realize that there is more to Heritage Camp than meets the eye, and the murder is just the beginning.

As the LWP team saw last year while researching the romance genre when working on Iditarod Nights, it can be difficult but also incredibly rewarding to learn how to publish a new genre. Like every kind of genre fiction, we knew that the mystery genre has a large audience, which would be great for Ooligan to break into. We just needed to get there. How? Well, that’s part of the mystery.

Working as detectives, the LWP team investigated the best ways to design the cover—the first step in order to properly reach the desired audience. We researched popular design decisions for mystery and thriller books, finding that dark and misty forest photographs and all-caps sans serif fonts would set the scene of this title perfectly while still meeting the expectations of mystery-book lovers. With this in mind, our designers got to work. What came out is a beautiful cover design that not only solidifies Finding the Vein as a mystery book to its audience, but one that looks like it belongs to the same collection as the two previous LWP titles, The Gifts We Keep and Iditarod Nights. In addition, the design is lighthearted enough to fit the other aspects of Finding the Vein, such as the comedic interactions of the endearing characters, the setting of a summer camp, and themes such as identity and learning what it means to be LGBTQ+.

In regards to marketing, Finding the Vein proved again to be educational to the LWP team. We needed to rethink how to reach our desired audience, so we began researching mystery book bloggers, reviewers, podcasters, and book clubs. We searched for adoption associations, summer camps, and LGBTQ+ media that may be interested in other aspects of the book as well. We are excited about what kinds of attention Finding the Vein may receive once we start inquiring about blurbs and reviews from all of our collected contacts!

In addition to the above-mentioned progress, Finding the Vein has undergone a developmental edit, a heavy copyedit, a medium copyedit, and has been prepared for the design process via XML typecoding. Next up, we’ll see the finalized galley, finish up the social media strategy plan, and do a print proofread.

Finding the Vein will launch in April 2021 in both trade paperback and ebook formats. I can’t wait to see how this title progresses through the publication process and to finally hold it in my hands. For updates on this title and others, stay tuned to Ooligan’s blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. To learn more about the Library Writers Project and how to submit work to the Multnomah County Library, please visit their website.

Why Authors Should Obsessively Read Submission Guidelines

Let’s take a moment to picture the perfect scenario: You think up a million-dollar concept. You sit down one night and write an entire, error-free draft in one go, and then publishers fight to the death over the rights to publish your book. Next comes the movie contract, and before you know it, you have your own section in bookstores and Universal is tearing down yet another section of the park to build your world for all to see. Perfect, right?

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that publishing is not only more mysterious than that, but also harder than that. So we’ll look at the world as realists instead of optimists: You think up a character, plot point, scene, world—something that sparks a book idea—labor over the project for weeks or months or years, probably scrap it at least three times, finish your first, third, tenth draft, and finally feel ready (enough) to query agents or publishers, depending on your publishing goals. Once you find that agent or publisher, there are definitely more steps (maybe including an adaptation, if you’re lucky), but the sad truth is that the majority of writers don’t make it past this query stage.

I don’t say this to discourage you. In fact, I’m here because I want to encourage you to do everything in your power to make it past this hurdle. Because I want you all to succeed, I’m here to share a publishing secret with you—a way to persevere and get past this stage in the publishing process so you can eventually see your book baby out in the world.

The secret: Read the submission guidelines. Then read them again. And a third time, to be as thorough as possible.

Why should I do that? you may be asking. It’s simple. Not only does reading the submission guidelines tell you something about the agent or publisher you’re trying to impress, but it also tells that agent or publisher something about you. Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons you should obsess over submission guidelines:

  1. It shows the agent or publisher that you’re serious. Plenty of people can blindly copy and paste their query and email a whole chain of agents and publishers, and we always know. Each agent or publisher has specific things they want included in the query (e.g., pages included, pages pasted or attached, a short bio, a synopsis, etc.), and if you know those guidelines in and out, you’ll be able to personalize your query to their tastes. Take your querying journey just as seriously as you want publishers to take you.
  2. You won’t waste anyone’s time. If you’re sending queries en masse, you’re likely sending them to agents or publishers who don’t represent or publish the type of book you’ve written. Not only does it waste your brain space to hit send on that email, but it also wastes time on the receiving end.
  3. You may discover something you don’t like about the agent or publisher. Maybe you heard of them through the grapevine, but a little research about their submission guidelines tells you that you shouldn’t work for them. This doesn’t mean they’re bad people by any means: maybe you write in multiple genres and they only represent one of those genres.
  4. You’re a professional, so you should act like it. There are a lot of mysteries in this industry, but submission guidelines are not one of them. They give you insight into agents and publishers. Any professional writer who is serious about their career needs that insight, so take advantage of it.
  5. They’re there for a reason. As someone who has crafted submission guidelines on multiple occasions, I’m here to tell you that I don’t spend my time on them for nothing. The genres I do or don’t take on depend on how confident I am in my ability to sell those genres and lead those books to success. If you want a successful career—maybe one that leads to those adaptations I mentioned earlier—the first step is finding someone who really knows how to champion your book, and you’ll only do that by reading the submission guidelines.

Bonus: if you’re reading submission guidelines and are stumped on what some of the lingo means, check out Writer’s Relief, where they have a post about how to interpret submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Instagram Introduced Alt Text

Alternative text and tags are something of a recent phenomenon on social media. In the past few years, Twitter has introduced alternative text for people who were sharing images on their accounts, making them more accessible to users with visual impairments. To read more about that, check out this article. Recently, Instagram introduced their own version of this. Adding this alternative text is somewhat of a necessity for a platform that consists entirely of image-based content.

Instagram updated their system last year by creating an automatic version of alt text that basically looks for visual clues and then writes a description that can be read out loud. But that method isn’t always accurate. That’s why they’ve created alternative text that users can place on their own images. It’s important to point out that there were some users (most of whom had a significant number of followers) who were doing this sort of work before any of this was introduced, simply by adding image descriptions (often in brackets) at the bottom of their captions.

There are just a few quick steps to take to include alt text when you’re posting an image on Instagram. Find them below.

  1. Select your image like you typically would, and write your caption.
  2. At the bottom of the caption screen there’s a little button that says “advanced settings.” Click on it.
  3. Click on “write alt text.”
  4. Write your alternative text, typically a description of the photo, and select “done.”
  5. Now you’re ready to share your image!

Why is it important to take these steps? We live in a world that was created for those who are seeing. Think about it: How many times a day do you pass a sign or an advertisement? Probably more times than you can count. The internet is a place that can break those barriers, and it’s slowly becoming more and more accessible. But, of course, we all have a role to play here. Taking the time to add this text to your image can give your followers a fuller experience of your work. And who doesn’t want that?

To read more about Instagram’s introduction of alternative text, check out this blog post they wrote in November 2018.

Books, Beer, and Bettering a Manuscript: How Ooligan Press Brews a Bestseller

Ooligan Press, local author Jeff Alworth, and the Craft Brew Alliance have teamed up to bring you Ooligan’s next title: The Widmer Way: How Two Brothers Led Portland’s Craft Beer Revolution. The book, out March 26, explores the rise of Portland’s own beer titans: Kurt and Rob Widmer. From modest beginnings hand-delivering kegs out of an old Datsun to partnering with Anheuser-Busch InBev, from begging for customers to sample their wares to sponsoring the Timbers and the Blazers, the two brothers have never lost their status as local boys made good.

Along with our newest title, I would also like to introduce myself. I’m the project manager for this book, and I am lucky enough to see the project from acquisition through to its publication date. Often, project managers at Ooligan Press acquire a project, get the book up and running, and then hand it off to their successors when graduating from the program, or join the project partway through. For The Widmer Way, we decided on an accelerated publication schedule, which means that the book is going from manuscript to finished product in just one year’s time and that my team and I get to see the complete production. I was chosen to train as a project manager a mere six days prior to Ooligan unanimously voting to take on the book, and my training turned into a crash course of meetings, scheduling, and management.

Once the book was acquired, my trainer and outgoing 50 Hikes manager TJ Carter and I sat down with Ooligan’s department heads to plan out the production schedule. Marketing, social media, acquisitions, digital, design, editing, and our team members all came together to prioritize the schedule and decide where to begin.

Our first priority was, obviously, the manuscript. We called for volunteers (as it was spring break) to do a developmental edit. As Jeff is an experienced author, we started out in good shape, but still needed to spend some time polishing. A developmental edit offers (often significant) changes to the structure, narrative, and language of a manuscript. Our editing team collaborates and offers a letter with our proposed changes to the author, who then makes certain edits and returns the manuscript, often for another round of developmental editing. For The Widmer Way, after one round of developmental and line edits, we were ready to move on to copyediting.

At Ooligan, we often do a heavy, medium, and light round of copyediting. This is where we make more granular changes, rather than sweeping developmental changes. We look for clarity and accuracy, all while maintaining the author’s voice as much as possible. As this is a nonfiction title, we also took this time to do some fact checking and gathering of sources for the information presented in the book.

All the while, my team was hard at work on the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes, no-one-knows-this-stuff-happens-at-publishing-houses tasks. A marketing plan was developed, complete with our wish list of events we hoped to participate in, social media strategy, and the industry-specific details like BISAC codes. We also used this time to create the beautiful cover you now see, courtesy of our own design department head, Jenny Kimura. Covers are voted on by the entire press body, much in the same way we acquire our books. Everyone has a chance to be heard and give their input as to how the design should develop.

In the months since, we’ve completed editing, are zeroing in on completing the interior design and proofreading (wherein we look at the aesthetics of the words on the page, rather than the words themselves), and are in the process of requesting reviews from major publications. In the next term, leading up to the March 26 publication date, we will be designing the ebook, recording the audiobook, and planning an amazing launch party to celebrate the long, difficult, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding road of turning an idea into the next book you pick up at Powell’s.

Try New Things

I’ve only ever applied to two colleges in my life. Which, if you know me at all, will seem like a drastic deviance from my general personality. You might say, based on this knowledge, that I’ve “always known what I want to do” or that I’m “really good at making decisions.” The first one less than the second but really, neither apply.

My original plan, before applying to the Masters of Writing: Book Publishing program here at PSU, was to take a year off, work, and generally exist in a space other than an educational institution. I spent the spring, summer, and fall after I graduated doing just that, and if we’re being honest, I kind of hated it. Maybe it’s the structure of classes or the comradery of late nights and finals or the fact that I just really love learning, but I was ready to get back into a classroom and work toward my next goal. But mostly, it’s the fact that I value the stories we are able to share through books and that I want to be a part of that process in whatever way I can, promoting voices we don’t hear often enough.

Actually applying for the program took a long time, especially curating the writing sample and writing the personal statement, so plan ahead. (If you’re interested in knowing more about the admissions process, check out the Ooligan site here.) But once you’ve completed all the things and have been accepted into the program, what can you actually expect?

Every student’s experience is different. Yes, there are core classes that every Ooligan student has to take, but after those are done and even while you’re in them, you can start to tailor your studies to better fit your goals. For me, that means taking a lot of marketing classes and trying to do social media projects for the books I’m working on. For someone else, that might mean taking every editing or design class they can find. I think that’s one of the real strengths of this program; the ability to adapt your learning to the areas you’re interested in while still having opportunities to gain new skills in areas that might be underdeveloped or unfamiliar.

For example, I don’t really consider myself an “editor,” but I’m actively seeking out opportunities where I’m able to expand those skills. That’s probably one of the best things about this program. The ability to try new types of projects, which I highly recommend, is just one way the program prepares you for the publishing industry. Where else are you going to get an opportunity to do both marketing and editing in substantial capacities?

Aside from the general courses, it’s really the work in lab and studio that I’ve found offers the most flexibility in tasks. One week you might be sending emails to potential review outlets, the next you’re taking pictures of collateral, and the next you’re copyediting a section of an upcoming title. Even with all of these small opportunities, after a few terms, you’ll hopefully get a sense of everything you’ve accomplished. I haven’t found much, as of yet, that brings me as much joy as seeing a book I’ve worked on, even in the smallest of ways, out in the world for people to see. If you have an inkling that you too may feel this way, publishing, and, more specifically, a program like the one Ooligan offers, is right for you.

The Value of an Ebook

While we could go around for hours about the costs of an ebook version of a book versus others, there’s another part of the general consumption of ebooks that should be discussed. Perceived value is just as important as actual cost.

Books, in general, take lots of steps before they become published. There’s the acquisitions process, usually multiple rounds of editing, marketing and social media planning and execution, and, of course, the design of the book’s interior and exterior. There’s also everything that comes after the book: royalty costs, employee paychecks, rent, etc. Most of the blogs I read talked about these costs as a part of the profit a publisher makes. Similarly, most of the articles talked about the fact that because digital books don’t cost money to store and ship, they’re able to cost less. And I get it, I really do. But I’ll argue that that’s just one small piece of the much bigger puzzle.

If you do a quick google search of “paperback vs. ebook pricing,” you’ll undoubtedly find a plethora of articles, blogs, and opinions on the pricing of ebooks. But I don’t think that’s the question that needs to be asked. There seems to be a clear difference between the consumer’s perceived value of a physical book and that of the digital version of that same book, but it seems to be more of a matter of how ebooks, now that we’re fully into the digital age, fit in the market that’s already incredibly saturated. Even though consumers and authors alike subscribe to the belief that ebooks should be cheaper than other versions, like fantasy author Scott Marlowe, perceived value doesn’t seem to be about the work that goes into creating the title. Cost is important to think about since it’s the consumer that’s purchasing or abstaining from titles, and price can really affect their decision, but perceived value is also affected by many other instances that go into the decision to purchase a book.

As Brooke Warner writes for Huffington Post, it’s important to look at books, even the ebook version, for the story and not the format. After all, when we read, though our experiences may change some based on where and how we’re reading, it’s really the actual story that we’re invested in. While cost can affect a consumer’s decision to purchase a particular title, as Warner says, it’s often not the book we’re paying for, but the experience we receive while we read. The value of the ebook is in more than just the format, it’s in the ease of being able to purchase the next book in the series at 2 a.m. when you need to know if your favorite character does the thing or whether the love interest you stan is going to make it. Or it’s filling what empty spaces you have left on your shelves with the colorful covers of all the books you swear you’re going to read.

There’s extreme value in any format of a book because it’s usually not the physical book that you’re invested in. Rather, it’s the stories’ struggles, triumphs, laughs, and frustrated tears that keep readers coming back again and again.

Brief Art Lesson on the Bookstagram

Bookstagrams are a form of art. Fact.

Bookstagrams are also a form of great marketing, and as such, a source of revenue. Also fact.

Why is it that the bookstagram community has worked so well for publishers and bloggers alike? Why is #bookstagram currently at over 19 million hits on Instagram? It’s because of both of those above facts. People like to see art. And in posting this art, they are unknowingly marketing a publisher while simultaneously marketing themselves. It’s brilliant. And there are no signs of it slowing down.

Bookstagrams, like all other forms of art, can be tricky to learn how to make. All it takes, though, is an honest feed, intentional artistic arrangement, and, most importantly, consistent branding.

What exactly goes into a bookstagram? The short answer: ANYTHING WITH A BOOK. It really is that simple. For me, I like to use props that go well with the themes of the book as well as the cover design. Some people just take pictures of pages. Some people take pictures of endless stacks of books surrounded by hundreds of colorful props so large you actually can’t read any of the titles on the books.

When starting an account, you have to understand who you’re trying to reach and what your basic brand will be. I want to be a very personal and trusted reviewer. I want people to feel like they know me. So, I only post pictures of books I’ve read and only post honest things about those books. That’s my brand. (This also makes it much easier to pick out themes in the book I can match with props.)

For my picture, I arrange the props against a consistent white background. It’s actually just a shelf I have at home. A really popular background right now is monochrome sheets.

For my props in my example of The Ocean in My Ears, I used SweeTarts because they’re relevant in the book itself and also pair very well with the cover.

After I take the picture, I edit it. All of my photos are edited to have the same lighting, the same fade, the same vibrancy. This is all part of the brand. I’ve yet to see a successful bookstagram that doesn’t use some kind of consistent photo editing. People want to see similar styles of photographs.

Keeping a consistent brand, no matter how personal the account, is so important. People want to follow accounts they can trust will post fairly similar art because they like that art. You wouldn’t commission an artist who gave out a different-styled piece every time someone requested their services; in a similar way, people will not give you that follow if you remain inconsistent and unpredictable. According to Forbes, “The best brand strategies are ones that are unique, ones that get users involved directly, and ones that remain true to the brand (preferably all three). If you can do this, and maintain a steady stream of content over the course of months and years, you can build a similarly massive, engaged following with your Instagram account.”

You heard it from the rich people’s magazine itself. Stay consistent, and your bookstagram will reach more people. When you reach more people, the books make more money, and you get more followers. It’s a win-win.