Book shelf including books of different genres, colors, and sizes.

Eight Celebrity-Run Instagram Book Clubs and Where to Find Them

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced people around the world indoors, many picked up books to pass the time. Due to the global nature of social media, readers were able to connect over titles with people they may never meet in person. Celebrities or influencers with existing social media followings have found their platforms to be an opportunity to share their interests and spark mass discussions about books via book clubs on Instagram. Here is a list of eight celebrity-run book clubs which host discussions on Instagram:

  1. Belletrist, founded by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss @belletrist on Instagram

    Emma and Karah, both avid readers, channeled their hobby into an online community of like-minded subscribers. Though social media and the unifying power of the internet have shaped Belletrist’s success, the project kicked off twelve years ago thanks to snail mail. Best friends Karah Preiss [living in New York] and Emma Roberts [living in LA] would always be sending each other books in the mail and writing little notes on them. It became the center of their friendship, exchanging recommendations and discussing them. They have similar tastes, but are also very different, so there was a nice blend of having so much in common yet still being able to learn from each other.

  2. Our Shared Shelf, founded by Emma Watson @oursharedshelf on Instagram

    As part of her work with UN Women, Emma Watson decided to start a feminist book club to share what she learned and hear other thoughts on the works she engaged with via Goodreads. Watson decided to step back from the Goodreads account, but will continue sharing books on Instagram with #OurSharedShelf.

  3. Between Two Books, founded by Florence Welch @betweentwobooks on Instagram

    Between Two Books was started in 2012, when an Irish teen tweeted Florence with the idea that she should have her own book club. It has grown into a vibrant online community, still led by original members, Kate and Leah, along with Florence, Maria, and Terri-Jane. The club regularly features guest recommendations from artists, writers, musicians, and directors.

  4. Reese’s Book Club, founded by Reese Witherspoon @reesesbookclub on Instagram

    Each month, Reese (book-lover-in-chief) chooses a book with a woman at the center of the story. There is no formula to book selection, but the book club looks for ways to deepen connections to books, authors, and ourselves.

  5. Noname Book Club, founded by Noname @nonamereads on Instagram

    Noname Book Club is a community dedicated to uplifting POC voices by highlighting two books each month written by authors of color. In addition to building community with folks across the country, the organization also sends the monthly book picks to incarcerated comrades through the Noname Reads Prison Program.

  6. Read With Jenna, founded by Jenna Bush Hager in collaboration with The Today Show @readwithjenna on Instagram

    Each month Jenna picks a new book to read with viewers and discuss on The Today Show.

  7. Andrew Luck Book Club, founded by Andrew Luck @albookclub on Instagram

    Andrew Luck uses his book club as a platform to share his love of reading with a large audience. Every month, Andrew recommends two books for readers: one for the “Rookies” (younger folks) and the other for “Veterans” (more seasoned readers). Andrew tries to interview one author each month and share that podcast on his website.

  8. Kaia Gerber’s Book Club, founded by Kaia Gerber @kaiagerber on Instagram

    In the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, Kaia decided to start a book club as a way to stay connected with her followers beyond the surface level uses of social media. Kaia shares book selections in her Instagram story, and the following week discusses the book on Instagram live (sometimes with a friend, writer, guest, etc.)

paper question marks in paper speech bubbles

Understanding the Differences Between Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult

When I first started at Ooligan Press, I was, of course, familiar with the term Young Adult (YA). I grew up reading plenty of YA books: the Animorphs, The Outsiders, The Giver, Harry Potter, Sabriel, The Golden Compass, and The Hunger Games to name a few. Until recently, I had only just started to hear the term Middle Grade (MG), and I had never heard the term New Adult (NA). So, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what all these terms mean and how they differ from one another. You may also be surprised to learn that some of the books I mentioned, which I thought of as YA, could actually be categorized as MG. So how do you know what’s what, what does it all mean, and why does it matter?

There are a lot of blurred lines and gray areas, and even the pros sometimes have difficulty differentiating between these terms and properly placing novels in the correct category. But knowing the basics of each term (and understanding the audience each category represents) can help publishers and authors make sure their books succeed and can help booksellers and librarians make sure those books reach their intended audiences. The first, and most important, thing to note is that YA, MG, and NA are not genres but categories—like fiction, nonfiction, or comics.

Middle Grade—MG is defined as books that are intended for readers aged eight to twelve. Often, MG titles feature a protagonist who is in the age range of eight to twelve and focuses on the experiences these readers may be going through. Friendships, family, physical changes, elementary and middle school experiences, life lessons, and a growing awareness of the world feature heavily in MG novels. MG novels can take the reader on fantastical journeys but usually with the promise of coming “home.” The early Harry Potter novels, the Animorphs, and The Golden Compass are considered MG titles. Current popular MG titles include Wonder, Troublemaker, and The Last Cuentista. To learn more about MG, check out this Publisher’s Weekly article on “Navigating Middle Grade Books” or check out this Ooligan Press blog post for some stellar recommendations for MG reads.

Young Adult—This term has been around the longest of the three—since 1944, in fact, when New York Public Library librarian Margaret Scoggin started calling teens “young adults” in her Library Journal column. YA books are generally intended for audiences aged twelve to eighteen. Often, YA titles feature a protagonist who is in the age range of twelve to eighteen and focuses on the experiences these readers may be going through. Although themes may vary by genre, YA books may feature aspects of coming-of-age, budding romance, violence, high school experiences, and/or leaving home. The Outsiders, The Giver, Sabriel, the later Harry Potter novels, and The Hunger Games are considered YA. Some current popular YA titles include One of Us Is Lying, Gallant, and You’ve Reached Sam. To learn more about YA, check out this video on PBS or check out this Ooligan Press blog post on the role of empathy in YA.

New Adult—The new “kid” on the block. Only recently coined in 2009 when St. Martin’s Press teamed up with book blogger Georgia McBride to run a contest for “YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult.’” NA books are generally intended for audiences aged eighteen to twenty-five. Often, NA titles feature a protagonist who is in the age range of eighteen to twenty-five and focuses on the experiences these readers may be going through. They may feature themes of coming-of-age, living away from home, college experiences, first job experiences, violence, identity, and sexuality. Popular NA titles include Red, White & Royal Blue, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Yolk. To learn more about NA, check out this article in the New York Times or read one of these Ooligan Press blog posts: “The New Adult Revolution,” “The New Adult Revolution: A Recap,” or “What Ever Happened to New Adult.”

So that is the most basic categorization of MG, YA, and NA. Obviously, many titles blur these lines, and things get even more complicated when we start talking about readers who “read-up” or “read-down.” However, I believe these categories can help readers find what they’re looking for—whether they are the “intended audience” or not.

Anatomy of a Bookseller’s Shelf

It takes a lot to get a book into the hands of its readers. The cover design, jacket copy, carefully curated blurbs, and publicity surrounding the book all work together to attract readers, all before they read a single word the author has written. All this work goes into making sure the book is noticed on the shelf, and then it’s up to the bookseller.

Like publishers, booksellers are passionate about delivering books to the readers who will enjoy them the most. A lot of careful consideration, meticulous thought, and intense debate goes into positioning books on the shelves so that readers can find the one they can’t put down.

Whether you’re walking into a Barnes & Noble or a local used bookstore, the first thing you generally notice is the books positioned strategically in front of the door. I worked at an indie bookstore in a small college town for five years. Although our town was small, we were one of three bookstores in a five-block radius and the competition for readers was fierce, especially since we were supposed to be a one-stop shop, selling used, new, and remaindered books. If we didn’t have copies of Stephen King’s new horror novel, we knew our customers would go to the bookstore on Second Street that was half our size and stocked the newest of new releases. Likewise, if Stephen King’s new horror novel was out and we hadn’t acquired a used copy yet, we knew our customers would march up Fourth Street to the shop that boasted an impressive collection of used books.

We had the advantage of having two entrances. Our bigger entrance, used more often by people who wanted to experience the bookstore and were more open to impulse buying, was our best seller arena. We had a two-pronged strategy for this display space: pulling titles from various best seller lists and always listening for what our specific customers were enjoying. Best-selling fiction and nonfiction were the core of our display arena. Each had a bookcase to itself; one side was the hardcover recent releases, and the other side housed paperbacks that had either recently been released in paperback or had seen a resurgence after an initial decline in popularity. These displays were supplemented by a thin bookcase that was directly across from the front doors that housed topical hits: celebrity memoirs, cultural phenomena, and sometimes staff must-reads if we could get away with it. This shelf was in constant flux, overseen by our astute manager, who kept a keen eye on what books had been given the golden seal of approval by Oprah, what authors were being interviewed by NPR, and which topics our customers were tuned into.

As the readership needs of the town subtly changed over time and the staff turned over, the front display shifted. After the 2016 presidential election, we added current events/politics best sellers to supplement fiction and nonfiction. After our newest hire revitalized our children’s section (a job no one wanted and was often neglected), we dedicated another floating display up front to popular kids’ releases. Unlike the adult fiction, the content of the popular kids’ display was decided not by what individual books had come at recently or were popular, but by what series and authors stood the test of time. When the store’s ownership changed and we began putting more effort into fostering relationships with local authors, we moved the Local Author section from the depths of Literature and helped it find its home on the endcap of the Best sellers section with a prominent sign that proudly announced their origin.

While our main goal was to deliver books into the hands of readers, booksellers are booklovers. We had our own desires and favorites that couldn’t always be contained in our modest (about four to five books per employee) Staff Recommends sections. Our manager came up with the idea of a display she called “Have You Seen This?” to promote books we were personally ecstatic about. While there wasn’t room for this display up front, it still had a respectable spot in the middle of the store, within the eyeline of anyone who wandered in through the auxiliary entrance. Here, we promoted promising, new authors who didn’t have clout or a readership yet, old classics we worried might otherwise be forgotten, and just generally any book we thought everyone needed to read.

A book’s place on the shelf is just one stop in its journey. When a book is championed by passionate publishers and booksellers, they find their way to their readers’ waiting hands.

silhouette of a boy reading

Marketing to Middle Grade

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you may be asking yourself: “what’s middle grade?”

Middle grade (MG) is a term for books intended for readers aged eight to twelve years old and has been a popular sector of publishing since at least the 1930s with the publication of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. MG began exploring new depths in the 1970s with novels such as Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., gained increasing popularity with the release of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and has started to highlight more diverse and empathy-building stories with recent books like New Kid by Jerry Craft and Wonder by R. J. Palacio. MG books have continued to sweep up the Newbery Medal while maintaining dominance on various best-seller lists. In fact, the overall best-selling print book of 2021 was an MG book entitled Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey. It’s clear that MG books are popular, so how does one go about marketing them?

Here are some helpful tips for authors, publishers, and booksellers.

Appeal to gatekeepers

MG readers are at an interesting intersection between early childhood and teenage years, where they are seeking independence but are still reliant on their parents, guardians, teachers, and librarians to gain access to the books they wish to read. When authors are writing books for MG audiences, they need to keep these gatekeepers in mind, as they will stand between the books and their target audience. Publishers should maintain direct and regular relationships with educators and librarians. But don’t forget, it’s still important to consider the readers themselves—MG readers want to have a choice in what they read. A great MG title should capture the child’s imagination, while also satisfying potential gatekeepers.

Create an MG space

For booksellers and librarians, rather than having MG readers have to walk back and forth between the juvenile and teen collections, create a specific section for MG titles. Booksellers and publishers should also create an online section just for MG books. Creating an MG space can help readers discover more books like the ones they love and can prevent the reader from having to feel too old for the kid’s section and too young for the YA section.

Design with MG readers in mind

In order to attract MG readers, designers and publishers should create eye-catching cover designs and make sure that other visual elements of the physical book are accessible and interesting to kids. The cover should tell a story and help potential readers know exactly what the book is going to be about. Same with the back cover. Blurbs may be important for adults, but kids aren’t going to care what other adults have to say about the book they have in their hands—they just want to know what it’s about!

Reach out to readers

Appealing to MG readers themselves can be tricky, as MG-aged readers aren’t allowed on many online platforms. Safe and acceptable websites to promote MG books include YouTube Kids and Dogobooks, a kid’s book-review website. Author events and book fairs at schools and bookstores are a great way to market and promote directly to readers. Book festivals are also a great way to interact with MG readers directly. Attending festivals such as the North Texas Teen Book Festival and OMG (Oh Middle Grade) Bookfest can be invaluable to marketing your MG novel.

Have fun and experiment

Middle grade readers are open, curious, smart, and willing to try new things. Experiment with who’s telling your story—kid, cat, alien—MG readers are open to many different perspectives. Try writing your story in text message form, or maybe in a series of notes, or experiment with graphic novel style. Try humor, try horror, and don’t shy away from serious topics. Although MG readers are young, they are also just beginning to become aware of the world outside of themselves. If you felt that your story was underrepresented when you were a kid, write that story. Create a diversity of stories and help build empathetic MG readers, and above all, have fun!

the word Marketing in colorful letters

 Marketing Plans 101

What’s the Goal?

The Marketing Plan: the official unofficial draft of your entire campaign. It’s where you’ll determine your book’s target audience and brainstorm how to successfully position it in a congested market. A successful Marketing Plan uniquely appeals to its intended audience so your book sells.

Step 1: The Basics

The basics? It’s pretty self explanatory. Here you’ll establish the logistics, including your book’s ISBN, pub date, list price, BISACs, print run, any other books by your author, and a plethora of other riveting information. No special nuances here.

That said, this doesn’t mean the basics aren’t important. They’re actually crucial to branding. Let’s take BISACs, for example. Choosing a list of four to five BISAC codes will help determine your book’s genre and, ultimately, the variation of audiences it’ll reach if positioned appropriately within those markets. It’ll also inform the book’s saleability.

The rest of the basics work together to further inform the metadata. It’s important to do your market research to determine an appropriate list price, publication quarter, trim size, and so forth. Other information, like the ISBN, will be supplied to you.

Who’s Your Author?

Next comes the author bio. Your author will supply this to you, so it’s important to ask them for an up-to-date, concise-but-effective bio. Readers want to know who writes the stories they love so much, but don’t bog them down with personal nuances.

What the Heck is a Comp?

A comparative title is a title similar to yours that’s used as market research to best inform sales price, projected sales, design and branding strategies, and ultimately, saleability. If your book doesn’t have a lot of comps, it’s either especially unique and fills a hole within the market or just isn’t what readers want.

Step 2: Who’s Your Audience?

This section is contingent on the Persona Exercise that will occur immediately before the Marketing Plan stage. In this phase, your team and the Marketing Manager will create a sort of audience avatar by answering many basic questions about your target audience, such as age, gender, ethnicity, political leanings, and so forth, as well as personality questions, some of which may seem trivial—the infamous iPhone-versus-Android debate, for example. Keep in mind that no question is trivial. Each informs the other. The goal is to create a real person you might run into at the bookstore browsing for a book just like yours.

Step 3: The Real Juicy Stuff: The Hook and Back Cover Copy

Ah, this is where it gets tricky. Writing an effective hook and description that reels in the audience in a snippet of a second is an art. Consider pithiness, concision, and drama. This is your first chance to make an impact. Avoid cliches and ensure the book’s primary goal comes across clearly. A hook should be no more than two short sentences, though one is preferred.

The description is what readers will see on the book’s back cover. Vague and mysterious? Not here. Write a summary that indulges the plot points and use as many keywords as possible. Amazon’s search algorithm will crawl the first 250 words of a description, so make sure those 250 words are impactful.

Step 4: SEO, Keywords, and Online Visibility

SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and appears in CoreSource and Amazon to make your book more visible online. Choosing over a hundred relevant, carefully chosen keywords ensures that your book won’t get lost in a wash of millions of internet searches.

Step 5: Reaching Your Audience

At this stage, there’s no need to create the actual Contact List. Instead, get inside the mind of your target audience and brainstorm the best categories to find reviewers in. Referring back to the section “Where are they?” in the Persona Exercise will tell you about your audience’s social media presence. Consider podcasts, bloggers, social media accounts, news outlets, industry outlets, clubs, academia, and so forth.

Step 6: Build That Campaign

Now’s the time to brainstorm what your campaign will look like. List the actionable things you’ll do to promote your book. Though you’ll want to keep these as bullet points, don’t skip the simple stuff like targeting reviews. Your sales reps will want to know this information. Brainstorm review and social media strategies, and promotional activities like author interviews, community outreach, and collaborations.

Now, get campaigning!

scattered tarot cards

Ooligan Books as the Major Arcana

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stay at home orders of Spring 2020, I began learning the art of tarot as a way to engage my mind that I also felt was therapeutic. As I was thinking of all the different books that we here at Ooligan Press have published, I realized that many of them carry themes that can be embodied in many of the Major Arcana cards. Take a look and see if your favorite Ooligan title is listed and what your tarot match might be. Chances are there might be a fun message for you from the cards as well!

Faultland: The Tower

The Tower is all about shaking foundations and allowing the things in our lives that are crumbling to crumble and fall away. No one knows what this is like more than the Sparrow family in Faultland. Caught in the wake of an earthquake that lays the city of Portland in waste, the family’s already shaky relationships are put to the test. The beautiful thing about the Tower is, however, that while things fall apart, it has a lovely way of revealing what strong and sure foundations remain.

Cataclysms on the Columbia: Death

Like many tarot cards, there is a nuanced balance of positive and negative energy, and it all depends on the context of the reading. The bestselling Ooligan title, Cataclysms on the Columbia, details the shifting and the forming of the landscape that those native to the river are well familiar with. In the same way, those familiar with the Death card know that it is all about the cycle of life ending, but in every ending there is a new beginning and a continual shifting of energies to keep sustaining life.

The Gifts We Keep: The Wheel of Fortune

In The Gifts We Keep by Katie Grindeland, Emerson is no stranger to sorrow. She deals with loss and healing and plenty of unknowns. Yet, like the Wheel of Fortune, the path that the characters take is bound to flip. What goes up must come down. Through the course of the novel, their fortune does turn out for the best.

Breaking Cadence: Justice

Rosa del Duca’s award-winning and compelling memoir about her journey as a conscientious objector deserves none other than Justice. The Justice card is all about unbiased decisions that are not swayed by anything other than truth when deciding what is fair and just. While del Duca’s path may not be for everyone, this book lays out, in no uncertain terms, why it was the necessary path for her.

Iditarod Nights: The Lovers

The dog-sled romance by Cindy Hiday seems to have an obvious choice: the Lovers. There is no doubting the potential of a relationship between Claire Stanfield and Dillon Cord, who both have complicated and intertwined histories. In spite of competing against each other in the Iditarod races, the two become allies and friends and have the choice of how far they want to take their relationship. Much like the Lovers card beckons, there are choices and sacrifices with the potential for beautiful results.

Odsburg: The Magician

Matt Tompkins’s award-winning allegorical fiction, Odsburg has all the makings of magic and an unveiling of what holds the city of Odsburg together. Woven together with both mystery and humor, Odsburg is nothing short of fantastical. Like the Magician, Tompkins is able to unearth tremendous potential within the citizens and city of Odsburg in order to transform what was once unknown into the known.

Laurel Everywhere: Strength

Erin Moynihan’s protagonist is everything that the Strength card represents. True strength is about the quiet resolution. As Laurel Everywhere‘s protagonist struggles to cope with grief, she taps into the wonder that is human resiliency and the gift of having a good support system. Laurel embodies the old adage: you never know how strong you are until you have to be.

Finding the Vein: The Moon

Like the Moon card, at the core of Jennifer Hanlon Wilde’s mystery, Finding The Vein, is the sense that nothing is what it seems. This whodunit novel gives a home to several notably diverse characters at Heritage Camp and highlights the fact that human beings contain a complexity of multitudes. Whatever illusions we have about those characters is sure to be challenged in brilliant ways in this book.

At Ooligan, we hope that as you read and engage with these incredible books, you will see the greater themes that the Universe is speaking in and through them to their dear readers. Be sure to check out our website
to buy the book that matches your tarot card!

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.