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.

 

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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.

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.

An Open Letter to Grammar

Aw Grammar. We’ve had such a mixed past. Though I appreciate your ability to make me a better writer, you can get in my way sometimes. Occasionally, I get so preoccupied with the correctness of my writing that I forget the reason that I’m writing. You can be useful, and you do deserve some instruction. However, I think that at a certain level, too much instruction can hinder writing.

You, Grammar, are essential to writing well. I do believe that some grasp of your grammatical concepts are needed for one to be a successful writer. One should know a noun from a verb, and an adjective from and adverb. A writer should also know what kind of punctuation and verb form to use when putting words onto paper. The correct use of certain words and commas is essential. However, much to your dismay I’m sure, I don’t know how much more formal instruction is needed beyond that.

I think that to be a good writer, one needs to be a good reader. This not only helps to generate creativity, but it also exposes young children to your correct written form. They know how a sentence is supposed to sound without instruction. This, in addition to parents and teachers who speak correctly should be sufficient to get the average person through life.

I do believe Grammar, that a person should learn about you until they reach middle school. After reaching seventh grade, a student should know basic math, writing, and reading skills. After these foundations are laid, I think that they should simply build upon them. That means learning algebra, reading classic novels, and learning to write in more specific styles. Students will be introduced to your friends Pythagoras and Plato. But unfortunately for you, I think that unless one is struggling with a very specific grammatical error, you no longer need to be taught.

Now don’t dismay Grammar. There are some who will continue to know you. For example, those who become English majors, or who choose to teach, or who decide to become editors. They need to keep getting to know you. They will be your closest friends, the ones that know your inmost secrets. They will then be able to share those secrets with others when the need arises.

No doubt about it Grammar, you’re important. You’re needed and necessary. But I believe that there comes a time when you need to sever your ties with most of us Average Joe’s. We don’t all have to be bosom buddies. But don’t worry too much, you’ll always have your English majors and teachers.

But What About Gender?

We have been reading a lot about gender in class, and its something that has been on my mind a lot. I say that I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist but I’m beginning to wonder if that is true anymore. I have often disagreed with “radical” feminists. I actually think that men are OK and that they can hold jobs. I also think that being a stay-at-home mom is a perfectly acceptable job, if that’s what a woman wants to do. In my head, feminists were always out to ruin men and take their jobs and not ever have children. However, since coming to college, I’m realizing that there is more to feminism and gender stereotyping and sexism than I thought there was.

Last night I attended Melanie Mock’s presentation on gender in the church. I thought that it was fascinating, and it opened my eyes to things I had never noticed before. I never would have thought that sexism would still exist here, at a 21st century Christian college. To me, sexism, and gender stereotyping goes against all that I know of what Jesus taught. The split between men and women is one that I find fascinating, but it is also cause for concern.

I never thought that gender was something that affected how I write or what I write about. I always just figured that I wrote about what I wanted to write about, no questions asked. And I do think that I care about the subjects that I choose, but now I’m wondering whether I choose them because they’re what I like or because they’re what I know. I do think that I can write about whatever I would like, but would those pieces be successful? Would they be read and published?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but as I look back on what I’ve read, I know that women and men get published. Both genders can become critically acclaimed authors of best selling books. Does my gender affect how I read those books? I’m not sure that I can fully answer that yet. I know that I have read books and recognized that they are specifically targeted for either boys or girls. I know that I often dislike female protagonists and like male heroes. I think that as a society trying to create “Strong Female Characters” we have gone from one end of the scale (prim and proper princesses) to the other (female warriors who care nothing for themselves and only want to defeat the “evil” in their worlds). I often find myself thinking that the women in these stories seem a little cartoonish and exaggerated in their behavior. They are frequently so extreme in their actions that they seem comical.  Writing a strong, accurate,and inspiring female character seems hard for most authors to do.

Gender, and how it relates to writing and reading, is not something I had ever given much thought. I always just assumed that personalities drove writing styles and topics, and maybe even the goal of writing. Are men more likely to become published authors than women? I don’t have hard, fast answers to these questions. However, you can rest assured knowing that I will be thinking about and looking for them.

Thanks Mr. Danielson

Not many people would say that Freshman year was their favorite year of high school, and I am included in that group. There was a lot to process during my first year of high school and there were times when homework was the last thing on my mind. There were times I definitely didn’t want to do my reading for Honors English 9, or my chapter summaries for Honors World History ( Oh, that I wish my high school self had known to enjoy homework that only took two hours!). Looking back, I am glad that I did those summaries, and wrote my many papers for my history class. My teacher, Mr. Danielson, greatly impacted my writing. He was blunt and honest, but very willing to help students who came to him for advice.

Walking into Mr. Danielson’s class for the first time on my first day of high school was nerve wracking. He is not a big man, but he was intimidating. Small, balding, and with oval-shaped, wire rim glasses, he was the picture of a high school teacher stereotype. “You have Danielson?” I heard many times from the all knowing, wise Sophomores; he was feared by many of the underclassmen. But though he took some getting used to, he turned out to influence my writing in ways that I would never have imagined.

I got a terrible grade on the first paper I wrote for Mr. Danielson. I remember him handing it back to me; the top page looked alright. The second and third and forth pages were where the real corrections began. Something that I distinctly recall about that essay was the correction that read, “Don’t stick your ‘I’s out.” I didn’t know it then, but apparently, when writing a research paper, “I” is not to say a word.

I took that to heart, and on my next paper, I had a comment that said, “Good improvement.”

And that did something to my writing. Looking back, I can see that it was not my use of the word “I” that improved my writing, but rather the confidence I gained from the praise he gave later on. He was a hard teacher to write for. I would still consider his class one of the hardest I have ever taken, especially in high school. But somehow, around all those lessons about Byzantine wars and Roman religion, he found the time to instill a small shred of confidence in me. So I say…

Thanks Mr. Danielson.

How I Feel About Writing Groups

​I have mixed feelings about Writing Groups. I have only really participated in peer editing groups, rather than writing workshops, but I can find them helpful. Often, the most beneficial aspect of writing or editing in a group is the fact that it makes me conscious of my own writing. I am forced to examine what I have written from another viewpoint. I want my paper to be good when other people read it for the first time, and so I work hard to make it good. Once someone else has read my paper and filled it full of red marks, I am forced to think about the things they found wrong with it. Sometimes this is a good thing. And yet other times, it fills me with bitterness and resentment that someone didn’t think my first draft was perfect.

​I think that resentment is often my first reaction after a writing group. About three weeks ago, one of my first college papers was due, for a class that I love and care about. I wanted to get a good grade and impress the professors. And so, when my classmates wanted to get together for peer editing, I decided that would be a great thing to go to. I wanted others’ opinions on my paper. So I went. And when I handed my paper to one of the girls there, the first thing she said to me was, “Is it alright if I use a red pen?” “Sure” I said, do whatever you like. Boy, did I regret that. She ended up needing a blue pen and a highlighter, in addition to the feared red pen. I remember her handing me my paper with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Here, I thought I had created a wondrous first draft, when in reality it was full of mistakes and corrections that needed to be made.

​I struggled with that essay for a long time after that peer-editing day. I ended up rewriting most of it, and changing my thesis statement. Though I felt snubbed after that evening, the corrections my friend suggested were for the most part helpful and accurate. I ended up doing well on that essay, and I was happy with my final draft. In this instance, peer editing and writing groups have been helpful. However, sometimes I leave feeling unsatisfied and like it wasn’t helpful. In my opinion, for my writing style, writing groups are sometimes helpful and sometimes not. In my opinion, it really depends on the person editing and what is being edited. I think that writing groups are something I should join in the future, and are a way to expose myself to others opinions about my writing. And I know that would be good for me.