How To: Book Marketing

Upon reading our prompt for this week, I turned to YouTube and typed in “how to market a book.” Original, I know. A long list of videos, mostly chats like the one above, appeared before me. As I started scanning the list, my eyes caught upon one video. It was Joanna Penn, the author I focused my marketing essay on! I clicked on the link, watched the video, and was good to go.

In this interview Joanna Penn, who writes thriller novels under the pen name J.F. Penn,  talks about how she goes about publishing and marketing her books. She self-published her first non-fiction book in 2008 but when it went unnoticed, she determined to learn as much as she could about the publishing and marketing world. She has now self-published over ten books and runs a website, The Creative Penn, that has articles for aspiring published authors.

Toward the beginning of the video (around 3:10), Penn talks about how learning the principles of marketing are more important than learning the tactics. She talks about how the websites and social media platforms will change and evolve over time but she has found that the principles are the same. I think that this was a very good point to make. In her opinion, authenticity, collaboration among authors, and generosity are all essential to the marketing process (4:15). She thinks that these traits are the ones that make readers remember you as an author, and she says that is the goal of marketing.

Another way Joanna Penn has been successful is through the ascetic choices she has made concerning her books (4:30). She stresses the importance of a good book jacket and “Back Blurb,” the short description found at the rear of the novel. These are the few things that can immediately attract readers. Another aspect she finds important is the key words used to describe  a book. She calls for “unsexy” titles of non-fiction work, saying that the easier it is for readers to find your book in an online search, the better off you will be. Making sure that the description of your book truly matches the contents of it will make it easier for readers to find and enjoy your book for what it really is.

I have great respect for Penn as a writer. I have read a few of her thrillers and they are the perfect Sunday afternoon read. Through my research for this post and my essay, I have come to have more knowledge of and respect for self-publishers and everything they must accomplish. I think that self-publishing is a great way for authors to get themselves out into the publishing world, and Joanna Penn is a great example of how to do that.



Tools of the Trade

“College is my job.” “I’m a full time student.” These are both things that I’ve heard from many different people. I agree with them. I know that working during college is essential to paying the bills, while I’m here, my first priority is my education. With that in mind, there are a few things I find essential to my success as a student.

  1. A Good Laptop. This has been so incredibly helpful to me. Besides just its obvious capabilities like typing and internet connection, my laptop also helps keep me connected to the people I love. I can text my parents, FaceTime my best friends, and check social media to see what’s going on in the lives of people I know.
  2. A Good Roommate and Floor. The community I am experiencing here is something I have been so thankful for. My roommate is great, she makes jokes when I don’t want to do my reading, encourages me to go to the gym, and makes me eat when I get loopy. I am so glad that I have people around me that care for me and want to see me succeed. On that note…
  3. Engaged Professors and Advisers. One of the things that has been most beneficial to me is the availability of the staff here at school. Having approachable professors and career coaches that I can ask questions of has already helped me determine, in part, what I’m going to do in the future- or at least next semester.
  4. Sleep and Coffee. Would this be a post about surviving college if these two weren’t mentioned? One thing I’m frequently surprised at is the amount of sleep students don’t get. I aim for seven a night, and some nights even that’s ambitious. However, I know that sleep is important, and I can tell a difference in my ability to succeed when I have enough of it. And for those nights when I don’t get as much sleep as I want? That’s when I head to Coffee Cottage and bask in the warm and cozy smell of coffee and delicious muffins.

These are just a few of the things that have helped me make it through most of my first semester of college (That in and of itself is crazy to think about!). What are some of your essentials?

Kindle vs. Print

When the iPad first came out, I was enthralled, like any other 7th grader would have been. The colors, the touch screen, the apps; it was like something out of a science fiction novel. At the time, I was so preoccupied with the “coolness” of this new toy that I never thought about what its invention would mean for the fate of my precious books.

It took me a while to really begin reading on my iPad. When I first got mine, the titles available were very limited and there were very few books targeted towards younger audiences. However, as this started to change, I began to see the appeal of reading on a device rather than a physical book. For one thing, my iPad allowed me to stay up reading long past my sister, who always wanted the lights off in the room we shared, went to bed. When my family went on vacation, I could actually take clothes with me, rather than fifteen pounds of books. I could also buy books more easily; I didn’t need a parent to drive me all the way to the bookstore in order to get my latest obsession.

Even though I loved the iPad for its practicality, bookstores were (and still are) my favorite kinds of stores. Searching on Amazon will never compare to browsing through a Barnes and Noble or a Borders (Rest in peace Borders; I miss you). I have even read books on my Kindle that I loved so much I needed to have them in paperback for my bookshelf. The idea of people only reading on their iPad or Kindle saddens me, for I have always thought of books as beautiful. Something about owning them and being able to see them and touch them gives their stories a more realistic quality.

I think that my love of physical books is echoed by many people. Because of this, I think that the printed book will never die. I read an article recently saying that as the prices of Kindle books rose to be equatable with that of printed books, more and more readers were choosing to buy physical copies of their favorite books. This was encouraging as a reader, but I think the more important thing is that people are reading. While I love a good book in my hands, not everyone feels that way. Book sales are indeed changing, but I do believe that passionate, die-hard readers will continue to support the sale of books until their dying breaths.

The Cave

This past weekend I spent most of Saturday underground. Two friends and I went to the Ape Caves in south-eastern Washington for the day. These caves are actually lava tunnels formed about 2,000 years ago by Mt. St. Helens, long before it was ever called that. The first half of the cave is a walk in the park, but the second reminded me of something out of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

While we were in no danger of flowing lava or dinosaur-like creatures that roam beneath the surface of the earth, we did encounter large rock piles we needed to summit and short walls to climb over. As Marrissa, Hannah, and I precariously picked our way over the small boulders, I was forced to think about being underground, and all the implications that came with it. There’s no sunlight, or fresh air. Darkness is all around, pressing into you; it can feel oppressing after a while. But, besides the physical aspects of being underground, I was also thinking about the allegorical ones.

I recently read The Republic by Plato for one of my classes. I had never read anything like it before. I was intrigued by a lot of what Plato had to say about knowledge, and true wisdom. He presents his famous cave allegory as a way of showing what knowledge and wisdom really are. He tells a story of a few people kept in a cave their whole lives, and finally one of them is freed and lead into the light above ground. This person is forcibly shown that what he had believed his whole life was not the real truth, but rather a shadow of the truth.

I can relate to this person who has been forced to examine his ideas of truth. Through the honors program and other classes here at school, I have been exposed to so many new ideas and beliefs that it can be hard to sort through them all. Our professors encourage us to think about what “we know to be true, or right or good.”

I have been doing more real thinking these last few months than I have ever done before. And it has been good for me, but right now, I’m still feeling a lot like that guy who’s being blinded by the sun after years underground. Here’s to the day when my eyes finally adjust and I can see clearly!

eBooks, Technology, and Blog Posts: OH MY!

I love the smell of old books, something musty and inky. I love the way books feel in my hands, I think the weight of them is comforting. It gives a sense of physicality to the words I am reading. Being able to turn the pages helps me to gauge my progress, which is helpful during boring school reading and frightening once I realize there aren’t enough pages for a resolution to occur while reading for pleasure. I like the way they look stacked on a shelf, they give off an air of knowledge and education, regardless of their genre.

I love books.

How I feel about eBooks and technology is a more complicated thing to tell. I write this blog digitally (obviously), I own a Kindle, and I often search for books to read online and take advantage of the many book lists that are published on the web. I like the forums that it has created for writing, both through blogging and other advertising sites. I think that technology has ushered in a new age of writing, not necessarily a bad one or a good one, but just a different one.

The marketing of a book seems so much different than it used to be. Sure, books may gain popularity through word of mouth, as we saw in this week’s reading, but I think that many of the most popular books “go viral.” They becoming insanely popular, items of pop culture that reach a wide audience. They develop fan followings online, creating websites dedicated to the books and FanFiction writing that refuses to let the author have the final word. Fans become hooked on the world and characters of a novel, developing backstories and spin-offs and telling parts of the story they felt did not receive enough attention. All of these things are dependent on technology and they are all a part of the reading experience in this day and age.

I think that technology has its perks. It can be a useful tool when writing and reading, providing access to online tools and resources for better understanding. I like the ease of using my Kindle at night, and it makes it easier to travel with books. However, there is something about actually holding a book in your hands. I love the feeling of books and bookstores. Books have been around for hundreds of years. eBooks, technology, and blog posts haven’t, and they will never have the timelessness of a real book.

Royal Servants


Getting ready to play some soccer!

About this time three years ago I was a sophomore in high school, trying to come up with the answers to the questions people kept asking me about college and majors and life choices. I was definitely feeling the weight of all the decisions that I had to make, even though I still had two years before any of that would start to matter. In the midst of trying to deal with my homework, stage managing the drama play, thinking about college, and being involved in youth group, a good friend of mine told me about a missions trip she had been on the summer before. I was entranced by the stories she told. Who were these people, that she could come back so full of love and on fire for God? More importantly, how could I meet them?

She had gone on a trip with the organization Royal Servants. They are a part of Reign Ministries, a larger non-profit organization based in Minnesota. Royal Servants, or RS, runs trips across the globe for teenage and college-age students. The trips vary in length, lasting anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks. RS is just as concerned with the students on the trip as they are with the people they are serving overseas. They work to ensure that students grow spiritually and that they make good friends. They are service and street ministry based; each team takes choreographed dances, drama skits, and puppet shows overseas to perform. Royal Servants visit some amazing places and see amazing things. My answer hungry fifteen year old self couldn’t think of anything better to do over the summer than go on a Royal Servants trip.


The girls soccer team after one of our last games.

I remember the night I signed up. I was nervous about telling my parents that I wanted to go to Costa Rica for five weeks, even though I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything so badly before. I filled out the whole application in one night, and I couldn’t sleep after it was finished. I got accepted, did all my fundraising, followed the packing list to a tee, and before I knew it, I was on the plane to Chicago to go to Training Camp and meet the people I would live with for the next month.

The week I spent in Wisconsin preparing for my trip and getting to know my teammates was one of the hardest things I think I’ve done. They push you to your limits. You’re sleeping with strangers in tents on the ground, while its pouring rain outside and there is thunder above you. You wear dirty clothes and do service projects early in the morning. You run all over the place, carry a backpack all the time, and only use port-a-potties for eight days.

Sarah and I ready to go zip-lining for the first time!


Sarah and I this last August, when she came to visit me!

But, those eight days are also some of my favorite days. I met one of my best friends during that week. I learned so much about myself, and I was only a fifth of the way through my summer. My time spent in Costa Rica was equally as formative. Just thinking about it as I write transports me back to the warm, rainy afternoons of soccer, or fútbol, as the locals call it,  in fields surrounded by sugarcane. I can feel the humidity and smell the church that we stayed at. Royal Servants has changed me in ways I can’t even fathom, and I hesitate to think about who I would be without that experience.