BookTok: The New Platform for Independent Bookstores

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been looking for ways to keep their minds busy. TikTok, a relatively new social media app, began growing in popularity during this time. As a result of this growth, a group of book-loving enthusiasts has started sharing and creating “bookish” content on the app.

“BookTok,” as the community followers call it, is the latest space for people to share their favorite reads. Like its close competitor Bookstagram, BookTok is where people come together to show off the books they are currently reading. Creators also help other readers explore genres they are unfamiliar with and participate in different reading and book challenges.

Personally, I have never been a fan of the book communities on other platforms like Instagram, but when quarantine forced us all indoors, I found myself delving into the world of TikTok, and I quickly found BookTok creators that I loved and have been following ever since. I soon noticed a trend in my regular feed: there were TikTok accounts showing up that were run by bookstores who wanted to promote their shops.

According to The Bookseller, many independent bookstores have taken it upon themselves to use the social media platform as a way to promote their stores and bring in a new consumer demographic. Their accounts, which are generally run by managers and other employees, use all of the platform’s tools to their advantage. Some of the main trends seen on the stores’ accounts are promotional videos that highlight manager book recommendations, new books entering the store for the week, book giveaways, and demonstrating the COVID safety protocols that are in place to ensure a safe customer experience. Many of these accounts also offer small tours of their store’s location and even show off specialized sections that have been created for the books that are trending on BookTok.

The content on these accounts gives customers a firsthand account of the shop’s current selection while also attracting consumers who are unaware of the shop’s existence in the first place. This type of exposure will most likely bring in customers from the local area while also attracting people from across the country who love to visit local shops.

From a marketing perspective, TikTok is an excellent platform for everyone, whether you’re a store, an author, or a publisher. The key to these promotional videos is that the content on TikTok is randomized—this means that anyone can stumble upon the store’s account, which makes reaching new customers relatively simple. By reaching out and establishing a presence in communities like BookTok, independent bookstores can definitely increase sales and establish more loyal customers.

It would not be surprising to see more independent bookstores adopting these trends and creating BookTok accounts to attract more customers. I can not wait to see what other hidden gems are hiding in the indie scene!

Dive Into Strange New Worlds: Bulk Up Your 2021 Fantasy Reading List

Each year brings with it a brand new crop of books, and, if you’re anything like me, you love to find new things to read. But where do you start? Perhaps you’re looking for a grand escape from reality or something to read while you’re waiting for the bus. Maybe you just finished the hottest new fantasy drama and now you want to read something with the same exciting vein. Maybe you’re looking for specific representation or you want to further diversify your bookshelf. Maybe you’re just bored and want to be entertained while staying safe at home. Whatever you’re searching for, look no further. I’m excited to recommend your next possible fantasy read.

Fantasy is a genre that has continuously evolved and branched out, especially in the past few years. With so many dynamic stories and new authors, the fantasy genre can offer any reader something exciting, from high fantasy with magic and mystery to magical realism, urban fantasy, and even classic fairy tales and fables. The concept of fantasy is constantly shifting, and there are so many new titles to read and look forward to. Reading fantasy is a way to escape, imagine oneself on an epic quest or in a strange new world, and experience mystery, romance, and magic like never before.

Amazon and Goodreads are good starting points when looking for the newest and most-liked bestsellers. Amazon provides lists of the newest, most wished for, and most popular titles currently on the market; Goodreads does much of the same by providing user-curated lists of the most anticipated titles based on recent trends. Here are a few of my favorite titles (and some that I’m looking forward to reading):

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab Addie LaRue was cursed back in the eighteenth century to live forever but be forgotten by everyone she meets, and now she lives a life of anonymity and adventure. Nearly three hundred years after her initial bargain to live an immortal, invisible life, Addie meets a young man in a bookstore who remembers her name.
  • The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec A reimagining of Norse mythology in which Angrboda, a witch banished by Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, falls in love with the trickster god Loki. She bears three children, each with a secret destiny, and must decide how far she is willing to go to protect her family from the futures she has seen for them.
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner The lives of an eighteenth-century apothecary and a modern-day aspiring historian collide when the latter, Caroline Parcewell, finds herself at the heart of the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago.
  • The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman Kinch Na Shannack, a thief who is running from a debt, finds his fate suddenly entangled with that of Galva, a knight he attempts to rob out of desperation. “Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.”

Do you want to support small presses and fantasy publishers? These independent houses are doing it right:

  • Quirk Books A small press headquartered in Philadelphia, “Quirk publishes just twenty-five strikingly unconventional books per year, and every title is a labor of love born out of our passions and obsessions. Always looking to set the next trend, Quirk delivers books and stories that are bold, unprecedented, beautifully designed, and affordable.” They are best known for their science fiction, fantasy, YA, and humor books.
  • Tachyon Publications “Founded in 1995, Tachyon Publications LLC is a publisher of smart science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as well as mysteries, memoirs, young adult, and literary fiction. We champion the creative storytelling of authors who inspire us through intelligent prose and imaginative worlds. Our titles are consistently unique, thought-provoking, and entertaining.”
  • Future House Publishing An imprint of Familius, “Future House publishes adult science fiction and fantasy, as well as middle-grade adventure books that embrace community, liberty, and family.”

And, of course, don’t forget about us! Make sure to keep up with Ooligan’s newest releases through our website and social media.

How Presses in China Acquire Translated Books from Other Countries

Translating books contributes to the exchange of ideas and dialogue between cultures and nations. Presses in China publish a large amount of translated books, both in the public domain and newly acquired books. Let’s take a look at how they handle foreign rights.

Let’s say that a foreign book is determined to have a potential audience in China (or any country). If the book has not been published in China, the rights editor—an editor who deals with books that have foreign rights—for the interested publisher would contact the copyright owner for that book. If there is no simplified Chinese version already published, the selling party would direct the rights editor to their agents in China such as Big Apple, Bardon-Chinese Media Agency, and INBOOKER-International Book Copyright Trade, or set up a direct contact if there is no language barrier.

The selling party would then send sample chapters in a PDF file or send a copy of the book via their agent, and the buying press in China would make a final decision on whether or not to acquire the book after reading and evaluating the sample.

If the press in China wants the book, the owner of the copyright sends an offer letter outlining the advance, the payment terms, the contract period, the royalty rate, the first print run, the WH tax, the data fee, and so forth. The advanced payment is calculated as the price of the translated book X the print run X the royalty rate. An average advance for a children’s book can range from $1,600–2,500. The contract period is normally five years, and the royalty rate is about 8 percent. The first print run starts at five thousand copies, while the WH tax varies from city to city (it’s 15.65 percent in Shanghai). In addition to the advance, the buying party also pays a data fee to the right selling party for the design of the text, which ranges from $150–500.

If the buying party accepts the offer, the selling party can send the contract, which is usually provided by the owner of the copyright. There are two ways the new version can be printed.The first option is to have the buying party be responsible for the interior and exterior design, but they send the sample back to the selling party to check before printing. The second option involves the selling party allowing the buying party to choose the typeface and typography, and having them take care of the printing; then the selling party would send the documents for the buying party. Before printing, the selling party would receive the sample book and check it again.

So, where do the presses find foreign books? Big publishing houses like Penguin Random House have their own branches in China. Apart from agencies, book fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, the BEA, and the Beijing International Book Fair are great resources as well. Though textbooks from abroad make more money, presses in China, both big and independent, are always looking for good stories.

In Search of the Perfect Pocket Book

If you’re both a reader and regular public transit rider, you’ve had this problem: How do you take your book with you? Reading and library apps are wonderful—I use them all the time—but I always have a print book in my bag. Not every book is suitable for transit, and I’ve tried different formats and narrowed the list of books I’ll pack.

Mass-market Paperbacks
Mass-markets allow publishers to print a large number of books quickly and cheaply. They are a compact 6.75 by 4.25 inches—good for slipping into a bag. Mass-markets have been around since the 1930s, but (for the traveler) there’s a difference between survivors from the late ’60s to the mid ’80s and ones printed today.

Old Mass-markets
No matter how good the story is, picking an older mass-market hinges on quality because they were not made to last. How cracked is the spine? Has the binding disintegrated? Does it have an unforgivable funky odor? To travel, older mass-markets need to be sturdy (so the pages don’t come flying out) but forgiving (enough to allow you to comfortably hold them open). I’ve had luck with surviving Bantam and Penguin Classics. I hold them in one hand, middle finger on the spine, thumb and pinky holding the pages open. But beware: these books are old and could have been anywhere. Make sure your book is clean.

New Mass-markets
For new mass-markets, it comes down to story length and covers. Most will be thin, but if the story is a doorstop (think Stephen King’s It) it could be several inches thick. I cannot overstate how difficult it is to quickly stuff a two-inch-thick mass-market into a small bag. For covers, books bound with glossy paper tend to hold their spines better: they’re flexible and forgiving when you open the book. Matte paper is often stiff—harder to open with easily cracked spines. I’ve seen matte paper spines break because the crack is so severe the book splits apart. There’s not much point in a traveling book you can’t be rough with. Novellas
In 2015, (originally a blog under sci-fi/fantasy publisher Tor) began publishing in print, specifically interested in reviving the novella. The novellas are five by eight inches, taller and wider than a mass-market, but much slimmer. These aren’t as easy to hold open with one hand, but the space around the text is a good trade. Though these stories are shorter, they pack a punch because views their novellas as “healthy snack-sized chunks” and several of their books appear on the Hugo and Nebula lists each year. That’s a reliably good read taking up less space in your bag. Even with the benefits, I don’t take all my novellas traveling—they’re too pretty to rough up!

Flipbacks or Dwarsliggers
A newcomer to American publishing is the flipback book. These tiny books are 4.7 by 3.2 inches and bound horizontally, intending for you to “swipe up” pages like on a screen. The format was invented by Dutch printer Royal Jongbloed (“dwarsligger” is Dutch) and debuted in 2009. It wasn’t until the president of Dutton Books for Young Readers saw one and collaborated with Royal Jongbloed that the flipback came to the United States. The first wave came in 2018 and were reprintings of John Green’s novels as Penguin Minis. Penguin Random House released more young adult and classic titles as flipbacks the following year. Unfortunately, the last batch was released in October 2019 and there’s currently no more set for publication. Like many traveling readers, I wanted to love them, but I also had trouble with the thin paper sticking together and flipping pages with one hand. I have yet to use a flipback on the go.

Other Tiny Books
There are, fortunately, a few more tiny books circulating the market. The Picador Modern Classics series releases waves of curated titles at a delightful 5.7 by 3.5 inches. Bloomsbury experimented with young adult mini books with reprints of Sarah J. Maas titles in the Miniature Character Collection, 5.5 by 3.7 inches. I haven’t tried either series yet, but the paper quality of both is very promising. The fact that tiny books are still being printed gives me tentative hope for more in the future.

No format has proven to be the perfect pocket book yet, but there are many close matches that will keep me and other traveling readers company as we wait for the next bus.

Books from Media: Published in the Real World

If you are a fan of the shows Parks and Rec, Jane the Virgin, or Younger, then you’ve probably heard of the books that were published by characters in those shows. But are you aware that those books have been brought into the real world?

These television shows have each produced fictional works based in the unique world of each show and written by the shows’ characters. These works are often created by ghostwriters, or with contributions from the shows’ creators, producers, and directors.

The facade is taken quite seriously. If you venture to the publishers’ websites, the authors and their bios are all consistent with the shows’ characters. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America from the show Parks and Rec, published by BBC Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House), has even included “reviews” from the fictional characters of the show, including Andy Dwyer, Chris Traeger, and Tom Haverford.

Snow Falling, the novel by Jane Gloriana Villanueva, the main character from Jane the Virgin, was published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The second TV-to-book adaption for the publisher was Marriage Vacation, a novel written by Pauline Brooks, a character from the show Younger which follows the New York publishing scene.

One of the most successful TV-to-book series is from the show Castle. It follows a crime writer, Richard Castle, who shadows a detective in New York and writes books based on their experiences. Seven of the novels from the show produced by The Hachette Group have made the New York Times Best Seller List and have a huge following.

These aren’t the only examples by a long shot. For instance, cookbooks based on television and movie series have recently grown in popularity, including Insight Editions’s Supernatural: The Official Cookbook and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook, as well as Titan’s, Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook.

With so many forms of media competing for the public’s attention, it seems publishers have hopped on the trend of accompanying popular digital productions. Editor of Marriage Vacation, Christine Pride, describes the relationship as one of gaining readers who may not read otherwise and come to these books via their televisions. She states, “In this competitive media landscape, those are the kind of edges that we’re trying to leverage.” Ghostwriter of Marriage Vacation, Jo Piazza, explains that these kinds of tie-ins are very important to the book industry. Sarah Berger, contributor to CNBC, concludes that this phenomena “is a case of life imitating art, and this type of immersive experience could soon be the new norm.”

The success and popularity of this concept have proven it to be a way to reach a new audience, or rather a pre-established one, and it is working. Sales of published works based on or taken directly from shows and movies have been extremely high, and while the publishing industry struggles with predicting book sales, producing books this way can be a safer bet.

When We Dream About the Future: Digital Ambiguity in 2020

Greetings from the Digital Department here at Ooligan Press. First, a quick query for our more CMOS-centric students and readers. Even before I was given the role of Digital Assistant last winter term, I pondered the correct verbiage for our department. I’ve overheard others call it the Digital “Asset” or “Content” department and feel I must clear things up. “Content,” as a (contemporary) cultural touchstone has become almost ubiquitous within our digital lives: we consume content constantly, daily, minute by minute. The term has even entered popular slang with creatives and business professionals alike in an abbreviated form with “slingin’ ‘tent” popularized by writer and producer Scott Aukerman. Both asset and content connote the objects we are making at the press, yet both fall short of describing the breadth of bringing these works into the world. We don’t often get comments, but if you’ve got an opinion on our official title, we’d love to hear it!

According to Publisher’s Weekly, companies like the juggernaut Penguin Random House “…are producing bespoke events and experiences around their content, and I think we should all be doing that…This has given us all an opportunity to go a little bit beyond that, but also to produce content that feels really authentic to certain groups of people who are hungry for it.”

Along with traditional book objects and newer media like audiobooks, ebooks, and interactive storytelling, publishers are also reinventing the convention space (more often these spaces are virtual). Rethinking our concepts of what is digital, what is physical, and what the grayness in between looks like is the bigger idea that I’d like to cull out of this modest blog post. Inspired by our brilliant professor Dr. Kathi Inman Berens’s Digital Skills course, I’ve set a long-term goal to focus our department’s resources on our stewardship. We are only here for a short time and part of our work is to always improve, innovate, and embrace ambiguity; to work through it. Certainly, this pandemic has highlighted the ways in which our lives have been shaped by our digital landscape and simultaneously prepared us for remote learning, remote working, and for change.

This shift can also be seen in the ever-present space of the library: a wellspring of digital content and a champion for the ebook (a technology that mirrors The Little Engine That Could). “In my opinion, one of the issues libraries face in the digital realm is that the publishers are so deeply invested in twentieth century models. I am hoping this helps shake them out of that,” [Carmi] Parker said. “This opportunity to experiment with different models means that when we start talking again with publishers about how e-lending can work best for all of us, we will have some real data to go on.” The pandemic has in fact amplified a progression of ebook popularity and has lent to a “Watershed Moment for Library Ebooks” according to Andrew Albanese in his article for Publisher’s Weekly. I feel privileged and grateful to be part of such an exciting field laden with meaningful opportunities for cultural transformation.

The Saga Continues

T9D has an interior! Robyn has been rocking it with her design, and all of us on the T9D team are super happy with the results. A gorgeous full-page spread at the beginning with 1960s rock concert imagery got me even more excited about this book; it really reflects the story’s themes beautifully, and I sincerely feel it will hold the interest of anyone who picks this book up.  Besides the full-page spread, Robyn created stunning clock-like imagery for each of the nine days. All in all, a beautiful and professional designI love it.

T9D also now has a list of six reviewers interested in writing a blurb. Keely’s been doing an excellent job keeping on top of this for us, and I am so happy with the reaction to Ruth’s latest entry in the Serakh Saga. Let’s hope we get some awesome reviews!

Design and Promotion

So this week Ruth is in Istanbul doing research for her next book, and enjoying all the lovely bazaars. Back home we’ve had some very good things happening for T9D. Ruth’s book will once again have a chance at the PNBA awards, and we can thank Robyn in Sales for that. Yeah! Thank you Robyn! Also, Ruth will be going to Wordstock this year to promote her book, which will be great for marketing and sales.

We have received some requests from potential blurbers for a printed copy of T9D, so those will be mailed out really soon. Riley and Robyn are doing an awesome job with the exterior and interior design of the book. The interior design should be done very soon, and hopefully we will receive blurbs here soon to finalize the exterior. For the PMs of T9D, this week is a lot about waiting, but it will be worth it. We are hoping for rave reviews from our blurbers and that Ruth will just rock it at Wordstock, and we’re looking forward to her next installment in the Florrie series. So, yeah, lots of good things happening for T9D!

The Interior and More!

The Ninth Day has an interior designer! Robyn Best, who is also doing an independent study this term to help TND with its sales plan, is really excited to get this project. Robyn, Ruth and I met last Wednesday to go over Robyn’s ideas and the first results of the YA interior design research. Robyn has chosen to draw inspiration from the interior design of The Diviners by Libba Bray, envisioning a beautiful two-page spread image and less white space. They also discussed typeface choices and the need for a feminine touch for the design of the whole book. Robyn’s enthusiasm and preparedness gave me confidence that she is the perfect person for this project, and I look forward to seeing what she will create for the interior of TND.

Ruth plans to have the acknowledgements done by May 13th, and will be in touch even while she is away on vacation. Ruth and I also briefly talked about her vision for a story arc in blog form, to provide a bridge between the stories of Miriam and Hope, which I am personally really excited about. She has a lot of great ideas that will need to be discussed with us and her critique group before the story is ready to launch.

We will continue to post design developments as they come up, as well as updates about Ruth’s website redesign. So stay tuned.

Grand Design

It is now time for The Ninth Day to have its own interior designer! Some lucky Oolie will take what is now a simple Word document and turn it into a beautiful, professional layout using Adobe InDesign. From the outside, the interior design process looks simple—fonts and margins turn into square-ish pages of prose—but there is much more to interior design than can be seen and understood at a glance. For every project, thousands of typefaces are discarded before one emerges as the perfect choice. Then, point size and leading are chosen to fit that typeface in this specific project. Characters per line are counted and averaged out to see if the margins are too narrow or too wide. Tracking must be adjusted throughout hundreds of pages to eliminate those pesky widows, orphans, and runts…The list of tiny, crucial details could go on forever.

The interior design process is all about small changes that create big impact. If you’ve ever read a book—really, anything with words on it—and been distracted by the type or layout, then the designer made a mistake. Unless you’re a typophile or a designer yourself, then you shouldn’t notice the interior of a publication. As a reader, you should experience and enjoy the material, not think about margins or point size.

Whoever is chosen to be the interior designer of The Ninth Day will be tasked with creating a design that works with the text, but also works for the text. He or she will do extensive research into appropriate interior design for young adult literature. The design concept will be consistent with choices made on the book cover as well with the companion novel Blue Thread. The designer(s) will work for weeks, even months, to create an interior design that—if it is successful—the casual reader probably won’t even be aware of. But that’s okay, because we take beautiful things for granted all the time. The next time you open a book or magazine or newspaper, try to pay attention to the interior design. You might be surprised by how complicated an interior can be!