From Fanfiction to Publishing

Have you ever been so engrossed in a book series that you just had to continue the story beyond the pages? If so, then you are not alone! Before the internet, members of the Star Trek fandom would write fanfiction to send to their friends and pass out at fan conventions. This phenomenon has been around for quite some time, and it continues to grow in popularity as more and more fandoms are created.

I have been reading and writing fanfiction since I was thirteen, and it’s something that I have continued doing as an adult. For many of us who are prolific readers, the book doesn’t just stop on the last page; its world goes deeper than what is written in the pages of the book. As fans of both the world and the characters, we want the legacy of the series to continue long after the series ends. This mindset can not only get you started on the path to writing your own works of fiction, but it can also allow you the opportunity to edit new works by different authors before they get out into the world.

Cassandra Clare, author of the well-known series, The Mortal Instruments, got her career started by writing Harry Potter fanfiction. (If you’d like to check out her current fiction, you can do so on her website). You have to start somewhere, right?

Creating fanfiction is a great place to start writing. You can get feedback from the community, practice developing characters, and delve deeper into a world that you already love. It’s a great way to hone your craft from the very beginning, in a safe and welcoming environment. I’ve even seen fanfiction authors who have created their own characters that fit into the world of the original book.

Many fanfiction authors even have what they call beta-readers, who essentially act as editors to help with organization, plot, world-building, character development, and more. Some fanfiction authors even have people who create custom artwork for their stories! There are so many elements that go into the development of fanfiction that it’s almost a microcosm of the publishing industry.

Many people automatically equate publishing with editing, which isn’t necessarily the case. While it is true that editing is a crucial aspect of publishing, it isn’t the only aspect. If you enjoy reading and contributing to the numerous (and usually hilarious) tags on AO3 and Fanfiction.net, then search engine optimization (SEO) and social media work might be a great option for you to pursue. Do you love art and design? Then you can work in a design department creating book covers and art for the interior of books. If you are fascinated by computers and coding, then you can work in the relatively new and evolving field of ebooks and audiobooks. The publishing industry has a place for every bibliophile out there—even fanfiction writers. The best part? You are getting paid to do it ! My advice to you is to keep calm, follow your dreams, and write fanfiction!

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.

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!

Marketing to Millennials: Native Advertising

If you have some experience in marketing, you may have heard that “the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all.” But what does this mean, and is it actually true? Does a piece of marketing—whether it’s advertising, publicity, or some other kind of promotional copy—really have to be sneaky to be effective?

The answer is no, not necessarily, but it can help with the right demographic. For example, a study of how millenials respond to marketing by the McCarthy Group found that 84 precent of participants claimed to dislike typical advertising. Additionally, when asked to rate advertising on a scale from one (less trustworthy) to five (more trustworthy), a majority of the participants chose one. It isn’t hard to imagine why this might be the case when you take into account how advertising has become increasingly personal and pervasive as technology has advanced. For millenials who have been a major target for digital advertising campaigns, overt marketing and advertising can be off-putting and even suspect. With this in mind, companies (including publishers) have had to rethink their methods for marketing in the digital age.

Enter native advertising, a form of marketing that has grown in popularity and efficacy over the last five to ten years. To put it simply, native advertising is a kind of paid marketing that embeds an advertisement for a product or service within a piece of media, like and article or feature, from a popular and oftentimes trustworthy source. One of the most famous examples of successful native advertising is this feature in the Onion which upholds the satirical nature of the site but also sneakily advertises for H&R Block.

Interestingly, publishers are some of the better-known companies who have successfully made use of native advertising for years. One excellent example is a BuzzFeed listicle from 2015 which ranks ten of the most romantic lines in literature. This post on BuzzFeed was paid for and sponsored by HarperCollins, and each quote listed comes from a book HarperCollins published. Native advertising such as this works particularly well for publishers because it allows them to reach difficult-to-target demographics like millennials in an effective way. Embedding advertising into the types of articles they would interact with anyway incites less suspicion and promotes engagement.

Publishers don’t just use native advertising to market to consumers, but to businesses and booksellers as well. A simple search for native advertising in Publishers Weekly finds guidelines and templates for publishers to produce such content for the publication. According to Publishers Weekly, native advertising is “a highly successful marketing strategy” that “nestles [a] brand alongside PW editorial, increasing [its] potential to deliver valuable content to readers through the platforms they trust most.” This definition sums up native advertising particularly well, and also points to the reasons marketing teams at publishers should continue to use it. By piggybacking advertisements for books on editorial content readers trust, publishers can effectively encourage both booksellers and readers to buy more books in a way that actually speaks to consumers’ interests, buying behaviors, and tastes. In other words, the less your marketing actually looks and feels like marketing, the more effective it will be among even the most dubious consumers.

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.

Targeting YA Readers via YouTube

Every launch for a new novel needs an exciting and buzzworthy marketing campaign. A targeted social media push is a must to reach your audience and, hopefully, spur sales; but reaching a young adult audience can be tricky. You can target parents, educators, and librarians who are perhaps the primary buyers. However, to create demand from the bottom up, you must reach young readers where they live which is, ironically, on YouTube.

When it comes to social media use, young adults are the largest subset of users. According to the Pew Research Center from their 2019 survey, some 88 percent of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds use any form of social media, and of those young adults 94 percent use YouTube. To reach this audience and boost demand for your author and new novel, YouTube must be a part of your marketing plan. To start your campaign, focus on BookTube, a growing community on YouTube that features creative videos of people reviewing and discussing literature, particularly in the YA genre. One such BookTuber, Christine Riccio, has become a major influencer with more than 410,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel, PolandBananasBooks. Her videos display a goofy and contagious love of reading presented in a funny and engaging way. Of interest to publishers are Riccio’s “Book Talks,” “Stories I Ate This Month,” and “Binge Book Buying” videos where she talks about how and why she chooses books and gives quick reviews. A positive review from an influencer like Riccio can help drive demand directly from the target audience.

In today’s crowded social media spaces, YouTube has emerged as a reliable, easy-to-access platform for publishers and their authors to grow revenue and traffic. The YouTube channel Epic Reads, produced by HarperCollins Publishers, is a great example. It has more than 163,000 subscribers and funny, youthful videos like “Book Nerd Problems” and “Book Hauls.” HarperCollins has also struck a deal with another BookTube influencer, Jesse George, whose channel jessethereader is immensely popular. On Epic Reads he leads a series called Epic Adaptations in which he reports on all the YA book-to-movie and book-to-television adaptations that are in the works. This popular series helps stimulate demand for books that have been on the market for some time. And of course, publishers can use YouTube to connect authors directly to their audience by posting book trailers, events, and live readings of excerpts.

YouTube is also fertile ground for publishers looking to cash in on the popularity of young influencers. One of the most recent success stories is The Try Guys. Originally part of BuzzFeed but now independent, The Try Guys includes four filmmakers: Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang. With an audience of 7.29 million subscribers, they create original comedy videos that appeal to a young audience, like “Keith Eats Everything at Taco Bell” and “The Try Guys Switch Pets for a Day.” Publisher Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, capitalized on the The Try Guys’ popularity by publishing their book The Hidden Power of F*cking Up. Part self-help book, part memoir, it reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list the week after it was released in June 2019.

No one has been more successful at harnessing the power and reach of YouTube, however, than YA author John Green. His extraordinary success as an author is boosted by his extremely popular YouTube channel, the vlogbrothers, which he co-hosts with his brother Hank Green. Their videos run the gamut from jokes to history lessons to science experiments, but they also use the platform to promote their creative fiction. And with 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube, they have far greater reach than even the largest US publishers like Penguin Random House. Other authors can learn from his example by connecting directly with YA readers on YouTube. For publishers and authors alike, YouTube is a key component of any social media strategy targeting a young adult audience.

Nurturing Key Relationships in Publishing

Writing a book is hard. Finding the right publisher for your book is even worse. But what’s the most difficult part of being an author or publisher? Maintaining important contacts.

Relationship development is key to promoting an author or publisher’s success. According to Jasmine Briggs at Forbes, “people are what make or break” such professional careers. Why is this important? On the publishing side of business, communicative relationships can determine the success of book sales, the continuing care for an author, future partnering decisions, and much more. Nurturing the relationship that is forged between author and editor, publisher and reviewer, and so forth is important as these forces are what can help you, not just in the moment, but in the future as well. As Authority Publishing states, “if you want their help, you need to ask them.” A publisher with a bad relationship with a certain author can’t simply reach out to ask them for new material. Similarly, an author with a bad relationship with their editor or publisher can’t just ask to move forward with a new project. So how can authors and publishers maintain great professional relations with one another? Here is shortened list from Forbes that may be helpful:

  • Adjust your mindset. In short, relationship development should be an important part of your week. Whether this means following up on that email from six months ago or returning a phone call you would rather ignore, you should do it. Start making it a point to talk to people you work with. Colleagues, friends of friends, etc. Have genuine conversations with them, and you might be surprised how they can help you develop in your career.
  • Know the power of influence. After you expand the circle you talk to professionally, you will begin to notice how these relationships change you. You might be more confident in the workplace or have more connections that benefit you than you did before. This is good! Maybe this will help you find a mentor or connect you with a better author, editor, or publisher.
  • Utilize social media. This may seem self-evident, but social media is a beast. Professional relationships are usually made through LinkedIn, but even Facebook groups, author Twitter support, and Instagram book promotion can be essential to developing and maintaining relationships. Not only can you connect with new people that can help you, but you can promote your business or book in the process. This allows you to grow in your business while simultaneously growing your network.

The success of an author, editor, or publisher relies heavily upon their social influence, which is why nurturing relationships between them is so important. If a publisher really likes how one author always reviews books for others in their genre, they should be sure to maintain that relationship. Similarly, if an author appreciates how a publisher promotes and sells their book, they should work hard to keep a great working relationship with them. So if you ever find yourself losing touch with your author or publisher, send out a friendly email. Remind them you’re still on their radar. Update them on what you’ve been working on, and maybe even see if they have any new connections for you. Take them out for coffee if you can. You might just be surprised where you can lead each other.

Easy Listening: The Importance and Challenges of Audiobook Proofreading for Misophonia

Audiobooks are becoming a popular format in publishing for many reasons: they allow people of all reading levels to passively enjoy their books, sometimes while multitasking. Most of all, audiobooks are often seen both by publishing houses and readers as a blanket solution to accessibility issues in book readership. Certainly, this is true for a lot of conditions; audiobooks can overcome blindness, dyslexia, and various mobility and visual impairments. However, mediums involving oracular involvement come with their own set of conditions that can make enjoying the content a challenge. For every blind person that is well-served by an audiobook, there is a misophonic listener that is underserved by underutilized proofreading practices.

If this is your first time reading about misophonia, its name should help imply its meaning: an aversion to certain sounds, to the extent that those afflicted have negative reactions and limited ability to function when exposed to those particular sounds. Misophonia is a condition that affects
only about 15 percent of the population, yet understanding the condition and avoiding its triggers has benefits that extend far beyond that narrow demographic. It’s a classic instance of the curb-cut effect: when concerns of accessibility are met, others ultimately benefit from it. Many triggers for misophonia—such as microphone pops, chewing, or whistling when breathing in—aren’t necessarily painful for people without the condition, but certainly detract from the experience of listening to an audiobook for anyone.

But saying that looking out for misophonic readers is a beneficial thing is not the same as saying it is easy. There isn’t exactly a style guide for audiobook proofreading in general, let alone one for catching misophonia triggers. Were such a guide to be created, it would need to factor in the variations in triggers. For some with the condition, pitch is the major factor of concern, for others it is tonality, and others still cannot stand droning noises of any pitch or tonality. In addition, the onus of creating misophonia-friendly audiobooks does not begin and end with proofreaders. Audiobook narrators must be made aware of avoiding volume modulation or unnecessary mouth sounds (not breathing into the mouth or clearing one’s voice, to name a few examples), and audiobook editors will have to be careful to edit around such noises. Some publishers will certainly consider such additional work burdensome, and will elect to not raise these concerns.

And yet, other publishers will consider it worth the effort, and will be richly rewarded for it in an overall increase in audio quality. If proofreaders are going to seek out misspoken words, they might as well seek out distracting or potentially distressing sounds that add nothing to the story being read. Some editors will jump at the challenge of creating such tight audio mixing to avoid microphone pops or other minor background noises, and if only one takes the liberty of creating a style guide for such editing, the entire industry could benefit from it. If audiobooks are going to continue to hold a reputation as an accessible medium, it is not enough that they passively address disabilities by the nature of their format; a more active role must be taken by publishers to ensure a product that everyone can enjoy.

“You’re crazy” is Lazy: How Editors Can Most Authentically Portray Mental Illness in Fiction

The topic of mental health is one that has been more openly discussed in the media in recent years. While open dialogue around crucial issues is important to encourage, this increased exposure brings about new considerations and challenges, mainly about how we discuss mental health. Words have power, and the way fictional stories about mental health are told can have just as crucial of an impact on readers as facts presented in news outlets. Editors have the responsibility to put forth stories that promote a respectful and authentic perspective on mental health, and below are four practices they can implement to achieve this goal.

1. Create a house style guide about mental health language.

Editors and writers are given the opportunity to use language in such a way that encourages productive conversations about mental health. The Guardian’s style guide, which has a section specifically for mental health, lists words not to use, such as loony, maniac, nutter, etc. because they “stereotype and stigmatize.” The guide also advises moving away from language that paints the person as a victim, such as “suffering from” or “afflicted by.” Another example is the Buzzfeed style guide. They emphasize using “people-first” language (“a person with schizophrenia” vs. “a schizophrenic person”); understanding the difference between an emotion and a mental disorder (using “sad” vs. “depressed”); and they offer specific guidelines for articles that report on suicide, such as avoiding specification of the methods used and avoiding usage of the word “commit,” which can carry a criminal or negative moral connotation. If publishing houses employ a similar style guide, it encourages everyone to be on the same page about how to respectfully discuss issues and properly characterize a protagonist with a mental illness.

2. Hire Own Voices authors.

The term “Own Voices” was coined by YA author Corinne Duyvis, who hashtagged “#ownvoices” on Twitter in 2015. Own Voices authors are writers who share the same identity—race, ethnicity, gender, disability, etc.—as their protagonist. Lee & Low Books, an independent, minority-owned children’s book publisher, surveyed over thirteen thousand employees within thirty-five publishing companies and eight review journals in its first Diversity Baseline Survey in 2015. The data showed the publishing industry is overwhelmingly white, straight, and non-disabled, making it difficult for stories that aren’t mainstream by these standards to reach the collective consciousness of publishing companies. Adrianna Herrera, an Own Voices romance novelist, says, “That in and of itself is a problem, because it’s kind of the unwritten rule that queer stories don’t have a place in the general mainstream market or [sit] on the bookshelves next to the historicals.” As a queer person of color, she set out to write stories that reflected her own experience, and people who find themselves at a similar intersection of identity can relate to them. For an example of a publishing house that prioritizes Own Voices authors, check out Blue Crow Publishing.

3. Where Own Voices authors aren’t accessible, hire sensitivity readers.

Sensitivity readers serve as part fact-checker, part “cultural ambassador,” according to Slate journalist Katy Walman. Minority group members are hired by an author or a publishing house and are specifically tasked with identifying hurtful, inaccurate, or inappropriate depictions of that group. According to Marketwatch, 50.2 percent of Americans five years old or less are part of a minority ethnic group; they make up the first majority-minority generation in U.S. history. These statistics and the ever-growing presence of social media contribute to growing concerns for writers: an audience’s desire for more diverse representation that might be out of a given writer’s comfort zone or personal experience, and, if done incorrectly, can result in major bad press from the young, socially conscious online readers. Ooligan sought out sensitivity readers for a recent title, and the experience proved invaluable as a learning opportunity for those involved and for the editorial process overall.

4. Include helpline information at the end of relevant books.

Mind-wise Innovation, powered by a team of behavioral health professionals from Massachusetts who equip organizations to discuss mental health, detail the appropriate ways for media to tell the story of suicide, as well as offer tips. The first tip they share is to emphasize that suicide is preventable, and to include information on warning signs and how to talk to someone who may be at risk. They say, “Perhaps most importantly, include resources. This would include a number for a suicide hotline and maybe even local resources where someone could go to get help.” While these guidelines are suggested for traditional media outlets, they can also be effective in relevant books.

The meaning we attribute to words, the ways we view people unlike us, and the cultural norms we slip into as a collective society shape the way we perceive people and their circumstances. These are a few examples of many decisions editors and publishers can make that can help contribute to a healthier societal perception of mental illness.

Battle for Books: Texts and Tariff Exemptions

The written word only matters insofar as it is made available and accessible—and in this case, insofar as it can be taxed. With the Trump administration dealing with the aftermath of a trade war with China, many consumers and publication producers are licking their wounds. In an unprecedented tariff implementation, almost every form of publication is being exposed to a 10 percent tax increase that started September 1, 2019. A second wave of taxes will come in December 2019.

There have been moves to grant pardons to specific products, with only one significant publications exemption: religious texts. After religious groups made (and won) their case to have the Bible, Quran, and other similar texts exempted, independent publishers and bookstores were hoping that such clemency would trickle down to other publications. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Most publications were rejected from exemption, including fiction, nonfiction, scientific texts, coloring books, maps, atlases, dictionaries, textbooks—basically anything bound in the form of a book.

There was, however, a short reprieve granted specifically to children’s books, which received partial clemency until mid-December so as to escape a price increase during this year’s holiday season. However, the new year will usher in a new economy. According to ProPublica, after December 15, “importers will pay 10 percent of the value of whatever they bring in from China.” Dan Reynolds, CEO of Workman Publishing, notes that China is exceptionally useful when “producing affordable children’s books with all kinds of bells and whistles, like pop-ups and textures.” It will get increasingly more challenging to market the tariffed book prices when buyers like school districts and libraries already have set budgets that do not account for these new tariffs.

The extra 10 percent tax is especially substantial for independent publishing houses and bookstores, who now need to revisit and revise their budgets, acquisition schedules, and hiring plans in order to compensate for the increase in importation costs. Furthermore, it is not just the physical books and book-like materials that are being levied, but also bookmaking equipment. Publishing Perspectives notes that “bookbinding machinery, including book-sewing machines” and equipment parts, are also being taxed.

China is an important player in American publishing, and these changes in taxation cannot be ignored. According to Derek Stordahl, executive vice president of Holiday House, “there are good color printers in the US and Canada, but they don’t have the capacity to service the entire industry and their prices are usually twice what you might pay.” Plus, with publishing houses scrambling to get out of China, neighboring Asian facilities have limited amounts of space to take on new customers, with the majority of that space going to publishers within the “Big Five.”

With September 1 having passed and December 15 rapidly approaching, consumers and producers alike are feeling the ramifications of the tariff increases. Budgets, proposals, and schedules are being overhauled in attempts to keep businesses afloat in the face of the influx of taxes imposed by the Trump administration. Both nationally and locally, the unprecedented fiscal pressures are shifting not only the market, but also the institutions. The very foundation of publishing houses and bookstores is under attack.