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!

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.

Designs of the Future and Beyond: 2018 Sci-Fi Book Cover Trends

We all judge books by their covers—none more than me. I especially judge the covers in my favorite genre of science fiction, and I have high expectations. Selfishly, I’m hoping to see less cheesy covers that focus on real models superimposed onto green screen backgrounds of fantasy worlds and more covers that include clean, intriguing, and eye-catching illustrations and dynamic color—but, hey, I’m only one of the multitudes of hungry readers.

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However, I refuse to believe we can’t move past the paperback designs of the past with their jumble of chunky fonts, strange color palettes, and, dare I say, unappealing illustrations of aliens.

What trends in fonts, color, and overall design dominated the genre last year, and what will heighten and inspire future book covers? Let’s jump in and start judging based on my not-so-expert opinion.

Dynamic, powerful reds:
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Many cover designs are featuring red either as an element of the overall color palette, as a major element of the design, or even to highlight and contrast the book title and author name against the background. The warm tones are reminiscent of blood, fire, and all those wonderful, quintessential dystopian elements. Visually stunning and striking, I can see this trend continuing beyond 2019 releases.

Interesting and surprising color contrasts:
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Surprising color combinations are pushing the boundaries of traditional science fiction cover designs into a new space (pun intended). Vivid, punchy yellows, soft, calm mints, and smooth gradients all contrast with the images and textures displayed on the covers, like burning houses or radioactive elephants.

Clear symbols on clean backgrounds:
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These covers all achieve a blend of various design elements with the use of clear symbolism conveying a specific mood or theme to the reader. Using texture, easy-to-read fonts, and recognizable images against contrasting backgrounds, these covers portray dark, mysterious, and treacherous worlds.

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Relying on clear symbols that resonate with the viewer, these designs represent an element of danger that can be disarming and unnerving and use representations of predators from the natural world that are familiar to us, like snakes or disembodied tentacles. Every human can identify with the primal fear these symbols evoke.

Complex and illustrative:
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More and more book covers are utilizing digital illustrations or a combination of illustrated and digital elements. I’m extremely excited to see beautiful, dark, and brilliantly executed illustrations that convey a science fiction feel without feeling overly cheesy.

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I’ve included a broad range of what I mean by “complex and illustrative.” These covers display a wide range of complexity and symbolism in their designs. Highlighting a lone protagonist is still a popular design trope, but there are ways that modern design can use this classic element to establish a striking visual image.

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In the more old-school, classic illustrative covers above, we can see how science fiction book covers have evolved and will continue to evolve as cover design moves into more digitally rendered, visually appealing, easy to read, and exciting illustrations that new and old readers alike can appreciate and love. (Also, a beetle spaceship? Now that’s just rad.)

All caps, and futuristic fonts:
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Most, if not all, of these covers utilize this last and most glaring trend of modern science fiction book covers. With the popularity of Andy Weir’s The Martian, futuristic fonts are ever-present elements of science fiction cover design. As we turn to our mobile devices and the internet to source and discover our books, book design across genres are attempting to include large, easy-to-read fonts so even at a quick glance at a tiny thumbnail, consumers can see the title and author. There are many exceptions to this rule, but the majority of science fiction cover designs use sans-serif fonts, giving a cleaner look to the overall design. Plus, the blockier fonts give the covers a futuristic, technological vibe.

I can’t wait to see how designers build upon these popular trends and continue to push boundaries and hook readers in just on a single glance. How do you feel about the direction of science fiction book cover design, and what would you like to see on the cover of your favorite science fiction books in 2019?

Publishers’ Influence on Pop Culture

Pop culture influences much of the world today, from what we wear to what we watch to what we read. Prior to my journey inside the publishing industry I have always been curious about two questions. 1. Who writes books for celebrities? 2. Why are books by celebrities published? My curiosity sparked at a young age when seeing some of the wildest characters on reality TV shows turn into humble and noble authors with bestselling books. These same celebrities we watch on TV have lives that seem to be so occupied with drama, business ventures, bad grammar, fashion shows, shopping trips, and traveling across the country that you have no choice but to wonder when, if ever, do they find the time to write a 200–300 page novel?

The answer to my first question became quite obvious when celebrities began receiving criticism for not acknowledging their co-writers, often known as ghost writers. Many feel entitled to the book because the storyline, plot, and characters were attributed to their own minds and not the minds of the co-writers.

However, the second question still remained complicated to answer. Celebrities are encouraged to sign book deals ultimately because it extends their brand into areas such as movies or television shows. These books entice readers by assuring them that there will be new secrets that have never been revealed by the author—not on TV, not in an interview, and sometimes not even to friends or family members. This is what keeps radio personalities, talk show hosts, critics, celebrity gossip blogs, and mainstream media interested in reading these books. It is also one of the strategies publishers seem to use to market and promote said books. Although the average reader does not pay attention to the publishing company responsible for the finished product, those in the publishing industry are paying very close attention.

Publishing companies can argue that they want to adhere to a variety of taste, they can say that everyone deserves a chance to tell their story, or that the book is truly amazing and one of a kind. Still, I can’t help but to ask if the publishing industry, like many others, is being more influenced by pop culture than it is being an influencer? All publishing companies, no matter the genre of books, are influencers. They influence by the way they market, edit, design, publicize, and sell their books. The books published are a reflection of what the publishing company finds valuable, sellable, and most importantly, readable.

Yes, people still read, and that is why publishers need to remain influencers. They have the power to provide rich, imaginative, exciting, thrilling, and genuine content written by real authors who work hard to compete in the publishing industry. Most authors just want their stories to be read, and many aren’t in it for the glory or the fame. They believe in the power of their writing and the beauty of their stories. We need publishers that believe in their own power to influence pop culture instead of falling under its influence.

American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse: A Trip and a Treat for Your Mind

It’s rare for me to come across a fellow poetry lover these days who isn’t some flavor of English. Poetry gets a bad rap for being esoteric, obtuse, unnecessarily complicated or convoluted, or pretentious. I’m not here to say that poetry like that doesn’t exist (just as there is prose that carries these not so admirable qualities as well). What I am here to argue is that there are as many different types of poetry as there are prose and to judge a genre and condemn it before you have tried all the genre has to offer is a pity and a shame.

Recently, Ooligan Press decided to stop taking poetry submissions. Though this saddened me, it also spurred me to delve into our backlist titles and bring to light the poetry we published in the past. One such collection is American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse, by Dubravka Oraic Tolic. This isn’t the poetry you studied in high school. The poet writes in a relatable, yet intricate and introspective manner of exploration and discovery. We are all on a journey to find our America—our freedom and our strength. Perhaps what I enjoyed the most in this collection was the eclectic variety of poetic forms that the poet utilized, from paragraphs to phrases to scattered words to shouting capital letters and even illustrations. It’s impossible to get bored. Dubravka Oraic Tolic uses Columbus’s journey to America and his subsequent discovery of India (the Indies) as a basis of comparison and contrast throughout. The very first poem had me intrigued and hooked from the start.

America has a smiling face

And usually arrives with the best intentions

Usually in spring, when the mayflowers flower

Of sailors and seas. When you want to vomit

From the waves on shore.

Each word, each combination, each point of stress and emphasis was carefully chosen and balanced to create a cohesive, vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Another aspect of this collection that I enjoyed were the references to historical artwork and other literature. There is a short poem in the collection that compares Columbus to Odysseus and America to the siren, “And we are hostages all / On the road to Ithaca.” The intricacy of the metaphor here has layers, as not only are we looking at the discovery of India and eventually America, but also the epic journeys of Greek mythology and the journey towards discovery that we all face.

Here’s my approach to poetry: I read through the poem once, and if anything at all caught my attention, even if it’s just a word or a particular image that popped into my head, I go back for a second read. I am also a practical poetry reader. I know that I am not going to understand or comprehend everything that the poet was trying to articulate or create—and that’s okay. Poetry is personal. It’s raw emotion and loaded words and stark images. It’s twisted and odd and confusing.
This collection is a good place to start. Check out Ooligan Press and peruse our backlist for other options to inspire your inner poet.