book recommendation covers

Five Books from Indie Presses to Gift around Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day celebrates all kinds of women and the ones they care for. What better gift to give the mother figure in your life than the power of words? Here are some recently published books to either gift or buddy-read for Mother’s Day!

  1. A Girl is A Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Tin House Books)
  2. In this coming-of-age story, thirteen-year-old Kirabo wants to know who her mother is. She seeks the guidance of the local witch, Nuusta, to learn more about the woman who gave birth to her. Struggling with her own identity, Kirabo understands the importance of independence, family, and her culture.

  3. The Magical Language of Others by E. J. Kohr (Tin House Books)
  4. Told through letters between a mother and daughter, fifteen-year-old Eun Ji is left to grow up in California with her brother when her parents have to return to South Korea for work. Her mother sends years worth of letters to Eun Ji, but the letters are in Korean, which Eun Ji can’t understand or translate until years later. When she does, Eun Ji learns stories of her grandmother and her past growing up in South Korea. With the help of the generations of women before her, Eun Ji learns to accept her family, voice, and language and learns how it shapes who she is.

  5. Praise Song for My Children: New and Selected Poems by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Autumn House Press)
  6. This poetry collection encompasses twenty-one years of poetry by the celebrated author Patricia Jabbeh Wesley and her role as a parent, woman, wife, sister, and friend. Wesley pours out her experiences of motherhood from both African and Western experiences and shows readers the depth of love and culture using the women around her.

  7. Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books)
  8. Libertie Sampson feels drawn toward the life her mother has set up for her: follow in her footsteps and become a doctor to practice alongside her. But Libertie can’t help but feel more drawn to music than science. Struggling with her identity as a Black woman and as a daughter, Libertie tries to find her place in the world and her freedom within it.

  9. Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa (Catapult Books)
  10. Brother and sister spend a final weekend in their childhood home after their mother’s passing. The two are forced to grapple with the history of their ancestors and the ones their family has lost, while Rufina must convince Rafa that his life is worth living.

Happy reading!

aerial shot of a wooden desk with an open book, notebook, ereader, and pair of glasses.

Three Tips for Marketing in a COVID World

As we approach two years of COVID restrictions and guidelines, we’re coming to terms with the fact that going back to “normal” may not happen, or at the very least, it will take longer than we originally thought. Being mostly virtual for the past two years has affected multiple industries, and publishing is no exception. Where book releases and author tours were once in-person at local bookstores, they are now virtual (or canceled), among other changes. This also means that the way marketers advertise books has changed as well. Marketing books has always been an ever-changing field, but now this fact rings even more true. Here are three tips to help you market your books during COVID that will help you reach a wide audience.

Social Media

Social media campaigns have seen much success in recent years, even more so with the increased use of social media during the pandemic. Instagram stories and well-made graphics tend to get a lot of views, comments, and likes, especially if a story is interactive. Snapchat stories also receive some interaction, but not as much as they used to. Short tweets on Twitter, especially with images or polls, also work, as do some Facebook posts. The key is to space your posts out between platforms and days so that you don’t spam anyone’s feed.

Virtual Events

In lieu of in-person book launches or tours, hosting events over Zoom or on other live streaming platforms has been successful. People still want to celebrate the release of new books, interact with authors, and attend readings, and while this can’t be done in the same way, an in-person event can happen, and virtual events can still pull in large audiences. Similar to a book tour, scheduling more than one date may be beneficial depending on how wide an audience you wish to reach. You may also want to consider running a giveaway during the event for books and other collateral or offering a limited number of signed copies online.

(E)Mailing Lists

Many publishers and authors send out emails a few times a month to advertise new releases, events, giveaways, and more. Email lists can be a great way to market your books and events as long as the emails have attention-grabbing images and headers, aren’t too long, and aren’t sent out too frequently. Email lists are great places to advertise book events, promote giveaways, and offer exclusive sneak peeks of book covers and previews of the first few chapters of a book.

Given the extended switch to virtual that we are all facing due to COVID, many marketing strategies within the publishing industry have had to become virtual as well. Finding the right combination of digital marketing strategies can be tricky, but this list is a good starting point when marketing your book or bookish event.

Text reading "Promote your book on social media like the experts, for free." next to two books with covers that say "Book Promotion"

Book Mock-Ups for Beginners

Do you want to elevate your book’s marketing aesthetic, but you’re unsure how to make marketing materials and social media graphics like an expert? The answer is 3D book mock-ups! Less intimidating than it sounds, a “book mock-up” is the general term for a number of online templates that are designed to turn your cover image into 3D promotion graphics just like the professionals make. Keep reading to learn more about how to create book mock-ups, where to find them online, and suggestions on where to use them in your book’s marketing materials.

Luckily for marketing beginners and experts alike, most book mock-up generators are incredibly easy to use, free, and only have three steps. Usually, you just choose a 3D mock-up, upload your cover image, and download your mock-up. However, finding good quality, free versions of online tools like book mock-up generators can sometimes be challenging, not to mention that it’s nerve-racking to visit and download files from unfamiliar websites—but don’t worry! I’m sharing several tried-and-true 3D book mock-up generators in the hope of saving you that trouble. In no particular order, my trusted mock-up generators are:

Although each of these mock-up generators is a good option, not all generators are created equal. For example, Book in Motion’s Mock-Up Tool offers mock-ups that incorporate your cover image into an alternative setting in addition to making the cover 3D. Boxshot’s 3D Book Cover Maker, on the other hand, only provides users with a 3D image of their cover (with a transparent background), but their generator offers users more control over the final product’s camera angles and lighting. In other words, Boxshot’s 3D Book Cover Maker constantly renders a realistic model of your book, which allows for more camera, light, and shadow flexibility. Boxshot’s generator is definitely advanced and offers more options than some of the other mock-up generators listed above, but don’t be intimidated. After just a few minutes of playing with your cover in Boxshot, even those with no design or marketing experience will quickly grasp how easy it is to use the tool.

Regardless of which mock-up generator you choose, make sure that your mock-up choice is the best fit for your end product. For example, if you’re designing a tipsheet, it’s better to use a mock-up that makes the title 3D and gives it a transparent background rather than using a mock-up that nestles your book under a tree in a well-lit forest. The latter would be perfect for a social media post, though! Wherever you use them, book mock-ups are sure to elevate your book marketing graphics on social media, in launch emails, and in advertising campaigns so that your promotional materials are one step closer to looking like an expert’s.

forest full of green leaves

Asian American Authors of the Pacific Northwest

Exclusionary policies and widespread discrimination have historically made the Pacific Northwest unwelcoming for immigrants of every generation, often creating spaces where Asian Americans are unwelcome and unsupported. Recently, an uptick of hate and xenophobic violence has called attention to charities such as Stop AAPI Hate and #HATEISAVIRUS, which work to end systemic violence and protect Asian communities in America. A list of charities to support, including the ones above, can be found here. In the meantime, you can help uplift Asian American voices by supporting the works of Asian American authors who create and contribute to the richness, diversity, and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Nicole ChungAll You Can Ever Know

Born in Seattle and raised in Oregon, Nicole Chung writes on adoption, identity, and her experiences growing up in a predominantly white town as an adoptee from Korea. According to Time magazine, “Nicole Chung delved into her own cross-cultural adoption to unpack our collective strengths and weaknesses when it comes to responding to our differences . . . opening readers’ eyes to the complexities of cross-cultural adoption, Chung makes a resounding case for empathy.”

Michelle ZaunerCrying in H Mart

Not only an acclaimed writer but also a musical performer under the moniker Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner’s debut novel, Crying in H Mart, is a memoir about grief and connection through the lens of food and culture. The Seattle Times called the novel a “warm and wholehearted work of literature, an honest and detailed account of grief over time, studded with moments of hope, humor, beauty, and clear-eyed observation.”

Jamie FordThe Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author of Songs of Willow Frost and Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford delivers a “tender and satisfying” story of the parts of Seattle history that “we would rather not face,” according to Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. The New York Times best seller, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, follows Henry Lee, the Chinese American narrator, as he navigates his past through the streets of Seattle. Ford himself grew up in Ashland as well as Seattle.

Linda TamuraNisei Soldiers Break Their Silence

Raised in Hood River, Oregon, Japanese American author Linda Tamura’s sophomore novel, Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence, explores the history of Japanese American soldiers in World War II who returned to Hood River after the war and were imprisoned in camps despite being American citizens. Tamura, author of Hood River Issai: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley, is a professor at Willamette University and works to “[celebrate] the history of Japanese Americans and inclusion in Oregon,” according to her website.

E. J. KohA Lesser Love

Poet, translator, and winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award for her memoir, The Magical Language of Others, E. J. Koh lives in Seattle and was raised in and around diasporic Korean communities, according to LSU Press. The poetry collection A Lesser Love touches on romantic, platonic, and familial love, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Ruth OzekiA Tale for the Time Being

Described by the author as a “particularly Pacific Northwest kind of book,” A Tale for the Time Being follows teenagers Nao in Tokyo and Ruth in British Columbia as they piece together mysteries of the past, unraveling family history and the conflicts of Japanese culture. Ozeki, the author of All Over Creation and My Year of Meats, is a Japanese American filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. According to The New York Times, A Tale for the Time Being is a “delightful yet sometimes harrowing novel . . . many many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal ‘salarymen,’ kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful,” with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling it “beautifully written” and “intensely readable.”

Shawn WongHomebase

Homebase, a coming-of-age story set in California during the 1950s, follows Chinese American teenager Rainsford Chan as he comes to terms with the truth of the Chinese American experience after the death of his parents. Shawn Wong, a Chinese American author and professor at the University of Washington, also wrote American Knees and has co-edited several anthologies.

Why Transparency Matters in Marketing

Wed, 20 Oct 2021 16:00:00 +0000

When it comes to marketing, the way we choose to communicate and present ourselves plays a huge role, especially in the current age of technology where consumers are inundated with ads and information every five seconds. As marketers, we want to make sure that the consumers within our targeted demographics choose to come to us for their needs, wants, and interests. If we want consumers to choose us, then we need to give them a reason to choose us. Many professionals have found that “playing it safe” with professional language and business jargon can actually alienate their audiences. If you are considering your audience for your social media posts, articles, and other marketing platforms, it is important to be able to engage with them. With the onslaught of advertising, the most successful businesses and individuals are the ones who engage with their patrons in ways that are authentic and fun. Consumers often choose companies that they can trust and that they feel connected to. Transparency goes a long way with current and future customers.

The marketing industry has a bit of a bad rap for being sneaky and manipulative, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you are probably going to get a lot more long-term business by being upfront and honest about your business practices than you are if you leave your consumers feeling hoodwinked because they didn’t read the fine print. So what is transparent marketing? Shel Holtz defines transparency as “the degree to which a company shares its leaders, employees, values, culture, strategy, business processes, and the results of those processes with its publics. It’s the opposite of opacity, in which companies operate behind closed doors and shuttered windows.”

We all know of situations when companies have been less than transparent in their businesses. One example might be when Wells Fargo created millions of accounts on behalf of their clients without their consent. The company addressed these concerns with an ad called Earning Your Trust that came across as being less than sincere to consumers. When Uber was associated with sexual harassment charges, they released their video, Moving Forward, to address these issues. The more Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, engaged with the issue head-on, the more consumers were able to trust that their concerns were being addressed and taken seriously. According to a study done by Label Insight, “94 percent of those surveyed are more likely to be loyal to brands that are transparent. The study also found that 56 percent of respondents would stay loyal to a brand for life if it was completely transparent.” Transparency is always important, not just when faced with negative publicity.

Think of all the brands and companies that you love. I can bet that near the top of the list of reasons why you love them is the fact that you love what they stand for and what they do. People love Starbucks because they strive for ethically sourced coffee. Toms grew in popularity because not only are the shoes comfortable, but they represent a cause that people can get behind (while getting something for themselves as well). Another example is the Spark Notes Twitter account, which has branded itself with a humorous, snarky tone that lends itself to authenticity. Transparency is becoming the standard of marketing—it’s what consumers want to see.

Are Big Books Better? Why the Long Novel is Here to Stay

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 16:00:08 +0000

I recently noticed that novels seem to be getting longer, so I did what any twenty-first century inquiring mind would and googled it. My search uncovered Publishers Weekly‘s “Fiction Gets Supersized” (2004), The Millions‘ “Is Big Back?” (2010), The Daily Beast‘s “Are Books Becoming Too Long to Read?” (2012), Salon‘s “Why We Love Loooong Novels” (2013), Vulture‘s “When Did Books Get So Freaking Enormous? The Year of the Very Long Novel” (2015), and The Independent‘s “If This Is the Year of the Mega-Novel, It’s Going to Be a Very Long 12 Months” (2015). It seemed safe to conclude that long novels are having a moment, yet it led me to wonder why that might be.

Salon writer Laura Miller implies that long novels are popular because one can be “swallowed up by a long novel, immersed in the world its author has created in a fashion that no other medium can rival.” While a shorter novel can certainly be immersive, time dictates that it simply cannot be as wholly immersive as a long novel. For example, assuming one reads at the average pace of two hundred words per minute, reading a short novel like Zora Neale Hurston’s 63,783-word Their Eyes Were Watching God would take 5.32 hours, while reading George R. R. Martin’s 298,000-word Game of Thrones would take 24.83 hours. It’s the difference between going on two dates with someone versus twelve. Plus, George R. R. Martin’s novel is part of a much longer series, which, if included, extends the word count to 1,770,000 or, put another way, 147 hours. In this case, it’s the difference between spending a day with someone versus spending a month with someone. Moreover, Game of Thrones was made into a successful HBO television series, which allows readers another avenue into the world he built so completely. This kind of extensive worldbuilding led me to wonder if the long novel is thriving because of the ways people consume media today. In other words, are worldbuilding and binge-viewing leading to longer novels, series formats, and binge-reading?

Market research supports the notion that readers are indeed binge-reading and that books may have better sales if all of the books in a series are made available at the same time so that readers have the opportunity to binge-read. Long novels are able to support the “Netflixication” of media, with the most iconic example being J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The seven-book series (comprised of three short novels and four long novels) has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and has spawned a successful movie franchise, along with computer games, toys, and even a theme park. Narrative incubators, like the approximately five-thousand-page Harry Potter series, are able to capture the attention of readers who can find the series in multiple ways across multiple mediums, from Lego Harry Potter on an iPad to a print version of one of the books in the library to Rowling’s Pottermore on the World Wide Web. Of course, not all novels can replicate the success of Harry Potter, but well-written and compelling long novels have the potential for promoting binge-reading and -viewing by creating worlds just as comprehensive as Harry Potter.

Long novels are not for everyone. They require a bigger financial and temporal investment from the writer, the publisher, the reviewer, and the reader. Not everyone is willing to spend the kind of time or money a long novel demands. Yet the long novel lends itself to literary immersion and detailed worldbuilding, which, in turn, facilitates the practice of binge-reading—a viable sector for market growth. In considering the future of the business of book publishing, it’s imperative to heed changing media-consumption practices. These practices suggest that the long novel not only encourages binge-reading but also provides an opportunity for growth and profitability because the long novel is able to meet the demands of readers who grow increasingly accustomed to instantly accessing captivating and complex stories. Finally, the long novel’s propensity for worldbuilding allows for the possibility of the propagation of the storyline into other formats, thus increasing the profitability of the book and making a well-written and compelling long novel worth the gamble.

Books Outside Bookstores: Selling to Specialty Stores

Sat, 21 May 2016 00:00:48 +0000

Earlier this year, a friend and I were feeling particularly flush and went into a boutique well out of our price range. Among the silk gowns and hand-stitched shoes and ornate jewelry was one book—a paperback of watercolor drawings of trees commonly found in Canada. The connection between this illustrated paperback and a seven-hundred-dollar dress still eludes me, but I certainly started paying more attention to books featured in non-book retail locations.

Here’s what I’ve learned: books are everywhere. Art books are in shoe boutiques, coloring books are in grocery stores, and Anthropologie now has an entire section for books and stationery. How do these books get there? Who chooses what is displayed next to the fishing nets and knives? And how can we at Ooligan Press cash in on this?

Specialty stores can really boost a book’s sales for a number of reasons:

  1. Visibility. With hundreds of thousands of books published each year in the United States—not to mention the video games, movies, and TV shows that all clamor for our attention—it is increasingly important to be seen. The majority of a bookstore’s stock will be shelved spine out, and any single title is easy to miss among its brethren. But among shoes or clothes or jewelry or homegoods, every book is a bit more remarkable and definitely more noticeable.
  2. Association and Audience. Subtle as it is, the books in a specialty store are imbued with a certain value based on that association. We naturally assume the books to have the same tone and appeal as the store. And when that principle is flipped on its head, you’ve got a built-in target audience.
  3. No Returns. The dreaded right of return is an inherent risk and par for the course when dealing with traditional booksellers. A sale made to a specialty store won’t come back to haunt you three months later. It’s a bit of solidity in an ever-shifting landscape.

As the incoming marketing manager, I’m really excited about the possibility of selling to a specialized market. For a small press like ours, this kind of visibility and recognition can really boost our sales and our brand name. We have some really exciting titles in the works for this year, and I’m glad we’re having conversations about how they will perform in a gift market, in a sporting store, or in a museum—all places that are a bit off the beaten path. Who knows. Maybe you’ll walk into a boutique and see an Ooligan book next to your new pair of shoes. I sure hope so.

Spilling Our Guts

Sat, 04 Jun 2016 00:00:09 +0000

Spilling your guts is just exactly as charming as it sounds.
—Fran Lebowitz

Sorry, Fran. We think that spilling your guts is charming, and we plan to gush about Kait Heacock and Siblings and Other Disappointments constantly. Since unveiling the cover, we have been working hard to develop the marketing and social media plans and to support our interior designer, Leigh Thomas. A first year student, Leigh submitted gorgeous cover drafts for consideration and has been selected as next year’s Ooligan Press design manager. Her design carefully captures many of the key themes of Heacock’s collection:

The challenge with the interior was to represent the collection’s gritty undertones while still presenting a visually polished piece. Generous use of space helped reinforce the stories’ themes of loneliness, and stumbling upon a font that closely fit the aesthetic of the hand-lettered cover carried through the handmade Siblings tone. Adding in tiny huckleberry glyphs was just a bonus. (Leigh Thomas)

The interior design of a book must visually organize and present the guts of the work in a beautiful, readable format. As we celebrate the milestone of having the interior designed, it is also a great time to think about how we can most effectively spill our guts about the power of these short stories and Heacock’s amazing rising voice. Our social media and marketing goals are divided by our various phases of promotion: awareness, preorder, launch, and sustained sales.

With generosity of support we know the fans of Ooligan Press to possess, we know our readers will be just as jazzed about us spilling our guts about Siblings and Other Disappointments as we are.

What the Blurb

Mon, 30 Nov 2015 18:00:24 +0000

Imagine you’ve just walked into Powell’s; the tables of books stand before you, as does a maze of shelves beyond shelves filled with potential rainy-day material. A cover with interesting lines and a clever title catches your eye. You walk over and pick it up, naturally flipping the book to the back cover. Blurbs. Now, just take a minute (thirty seconds if that’s all you’ve got) and decide whether to read it. Will what others have said about the book (and who) motivate you to make the purchase? Will the mood you’re in affect this decision and allow you to fall victim to this persuasive game? Does the influence change depending on whether you were hunting for something specific or just browsing?

I don’t choose books based on the author, generally not even genre. I like to read what others have inspired and motivated me to read (whether it is a blurb or my mother-in-law). Read Nicole Krauss’s blurb about David Grossman’s book, To the End of the Land :

“Very rarely, a few times in a lifetime, you open a book and when you close it again nothing can ever be the same. Walls have been pulled down, barriers broken, a dimension of feeling, of existence itself, has opened in you that was not there before. To the End of the Land is a book of this magnitude. David Grossman may be the most gifted writer I’ve ever read; gifted not just because of his imagination, his energy, his originality, but because he has access to the unutterable, because he can look inside a person and discover the unique essence of her humanity. For twenty-six years he has been writing novels about what it means to defend this essence, this unique light, against a world designed to extinguish it. To the End of the Land is his most powerful, shattering, and unflinching story of this defense. To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.”

I would eat this blurb up (well, I kind of did). However, several entities reporting on this blurb thought it to be overwhelming and simply too much. What’s your take? Is it too passionate? Over the top? Would it turn you away? Miss Krauss certainly created some buzz around Mr. Grossman’s book—no publicity is bad publicity. The book was rated with five stars by 56 percent of people on Amazon, and some of those reviews appear to have a similar reaction to the story.

So do blurbs serve a purpose?

If you’re a new author and you land a blurb from an author respected by the industry, related to your genre, and more importantly, has a reader fan base, rock-on man; you’ve got some gold in your pocket. Blurbs don’t only serve the author and consumer, though; they also impress other publishers, editors, designers, bookstores, and book retailers.

The truth is, we don’t know a ton about the effectiveness of a blurb. However, NPR’s recent article shared that CodEx Group, an independent audience research firm, has worked with many major publishers testing a variety of book covers (including covers with no blurbs) to understand consumer habits. What was discovered? It matters who is blurbing and whether it is actually bringing value to your book. I suppose that leaves us in a pit we’ve already been puttering around. It’s nice to have some assurance that the hard work is valuable.

So I’m curious about how digital publishing is changing the world of blurbs. Gary Shteyngart has a tumblr page dedicated to his blurbs. Is this the wave of the future: utilizing authors’ social media pages and websites and asking to post about a book? Perhaps. When browsing Amazon, do consumers still read the blurbs? It isn’t as natural a process as flipping a book to the back cover in your hands—could there be a physical and visual attachment to blurbs? What do you think?

What’s in a Name?

Fri, 04 Dec 2015 21:00:09 +0000

In the weeks since our last update, we have made great progress in the earliest stages of book production. We have selected a publication date for this special collection: October 11, 2016. Our budget has been established, and our tipsheet is coming together with a finalized author bio, the book description, a few highlighted selling points, some comparative titles, and a pithy keynote to capture attention. Our team has gathered the contact information for various authors we will reach out to in the coming weeks to request blurbs from.

One of the greatest learning experiences this month has been the construction of the design brief. With Alex and Sophia taking the lead, our group discussed major trends for short story collections and how Heacock’s rich sense of place could best be captured. Imagining how a reader might first judge our book by its cover, we had to strip down our project to the basics. How could we create a cohesive image that distilled the grit and power of twelve unique tales? This task forced us to reimagine Heacock’s writing visually, a process that helped us get to know the collection even more intimately and with more nuance.

With an eye for search optimization and the power of metadata, our team also revisited the title for this project. Novices to these concepts, our team realized that Siblings: Stories was likely to get buried under millions of search results, making it hard for our book to stand out. Just as important as the cover, a title is one of the first chances to capture the attention of a prospective reader, and much thought and energy went into combing through the manuscript to pull out quotes and phrases that spoke to the complexity of human relationships and the bond of family. As Heacock has so beautifully said, “it is so strange sometimes finding the balance between creative and commercial, but I know it’s important to consider both.” There are many strong options in the running, and a final title is on the horizon, coming in before the end of our fall term. It feels like we just started to get to know the characters that populate Heacock’s pages, and yet here we are with a publication date on the book, a finalized title around the corner, and cover design submissions in the not-so-distant future!