Power Book Publicity Tips for December 2013

Everyone at Smith Publicity would like to wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season! Here is a short video from the team wishing you a happy holiday!


The Right Book Cover: Converting Browsers to Buyers

by Suzanne Murray, CEO, StyleMatters Content Services

As the time arrives to cross the T's and dot the I's on your book manuscript, a flurry of tasks are likely to come your way. Final proofreading? Check. Book layout? Yes, if you’re self-publishing. Publicity? Absolutely. But don’t forget about cover design. It’s one of the most important aspects of your book if you want it to leave the bookstore shelves or get dropped into the Amazon shopping cart.

Think about it. Do you show up at a formal business meeting in a pair of raggedy jeans or at a client site wearing mis-matched colors and patterns? You know better. Outfit your book with equal professionalism and care, and it will create a powerful first impression for those who come across it, signaling whether your offering is compelling, contemporary, and high quality or something to simply be ignored.

Work With a Professional

The number one way to guarantee a good book cover is to work with a professional. (This may sound obvious but it has to be said!)  For self-publishing authors, this means seeking out someone who is not just a graphic designer, but someone who specializes in book design. And, if at all possible, avoid the temptation to purchase cover design as part of an online self-publishing package with a company that only lets you communicate via email. You want and need to be able to speak to your designer directly and to collaborate back and forth as necessary.

If you plan to work with a traditional publisher, check the website of your target publishers to review their past portfolio. Do their book covers look enticing and professional? Would you be proud to have your own book cover designed by the same team? If not, think twice about signing the publishing deal or gain assurances that you can bring in your own designer if needed.

Get Your Brainstorm On

It helps everyone involved when you are able to clearly communicate any ideas you have for the book cover before your designer generates comps for your review. A great way to spark your imagination is to do some brain mapping. Write down words that relate to your book’s key concept—say, resilient leadership or healthy eating—and then draw branches from there, with any and every word or idea that comes to mind (e.g., trampoline, horn-rimmed glasses, olive oil, green smoothie).

If you find yourself homing in on a certain image, play around on a Google-images search and see what comes up to further fuel your imagination. A walk through the bookstore can also help you key in on preferred color schemes and favored fonts.

Most importantly, be ready to explain to your designer what your book is about, who it’s for, the voice you use, and the attitude conveyed as these are the things that will dictate whether the cover is bold or subdued, humorous or sophisticated, intellectual or whimsical, and so forth.

Trust the Process

Once you’ve spent time reflecting on your vision for the book cover, share your ideas with your designer…and then dump them. He may run with something you’ve offered; or she may go in a completely different direction. You never know what ideas your own thinking may stimulate in the designer and how they will emerge once blended with the designer’s own creativity and publishing expertise.

Lastly, remember that the cover-design process may take some time. In any design package you purchase, make sure that multiple rounds of design are included to ensure a cover you like, and be patient as you and the designer go back and forth to get the final imagery right. The end result? A just-right, maybe even perfect, book cover: one that works in sync with your title and book concept to convert book browsers into book buyers. And what author doesn’t want that?

Suzanne Murray and her team at StyleMatters ( have helped hundreds of authors bring their books into print, from creating book proposals to win the hand of publishers such as Penguin, Berrett-Koehler, and Sierra Club Books to writing, editing, laying out, and cover-designing top-notch self-published books.


10 Tips to Boost Holiday Book Sales

by Sandra Poirier Diaz, President of Smith Publicity

The holidays are a great time for authors to increase book sales. According to shopping data, 42% of shoppers buy books/DVDs/video games during the holidays. Here are some tips to help your book get noticed.

1. Develop the elevator pitch for your book. Capture the essence of your book in one or two short sentences. Think of your book in terms of a movie trailer. This description is essential for all marketing. Here are some examples for holiday movies of 2013:

An affable underachiever finds out he’s fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity. (Delivery Man)

Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. (Frozen)

A chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

For inspiration, visit

2. Gift Guides. While magazine gift guides are busy collecting titles in late summer, there are still some great outlets closer to the holidays—especially online and newspaper outlets—to pitch your book. Research local media outlets which are always more inclined to cover a local author, and targeted online news outlets, and bloggers. Tip for bloggers—if your book is a great gift for a daughter to purchase for her dad, reach out to bloggers targeting the buyer (daughter) too. If you do not have a publicist with contacts/media lists, create your own list by visiting media outlets/blogs and collect contact names and email addresses.

3. Contacting Media and Bloggers. When presenting your book to others to consider for a holiday recommendation, start communication by email. Be short and sweet; bullet points work well. Do not send any attachments unless asked. In your email, present:

  • a short sentence showing you know their blog, work as a professional writer or media outlet (personalizing it is great, i.e. “I enjoyed the reading your piece about veterans of World War II meeting for the first time this past Veteran’s Day. I recently published a book set in World War II…”),
  • your elevator pitch,
  • the perfect people to receive your book as a gift,
  • price (especially if you are offering a holiday special price for your book),
  • holiday specials or incentives—if you sell the book from your website, offer gift wrapping and signing a customizing note to the recipient
  • formats available (hardcover, ebook, etc.)
  • links to purchase your book from major retails sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble),
  • short author bio, condensed clips of reviews, testimonials, or awards, and your website,
  • email address, telephone number and note (early in the email) if you are a local author, and
  • an offer to send a review copy or PDF of your book.

4. Making it Personal. On your website, and in any interactions with media or potential book buyers, offer to gift wrap and sign personalize copies for holiday gifts.

5. Charity. Over the holidays, choose a favorite charity and share a portion of your holiday sales. Let people know! Buyers will have an added reason to feel good about buying your book.

6. Price. In your “pitch” to media, bloggers, buyers, consider your price point: Great Gifts for Teens under $20, for example.

7. Limited-time. With a deadline for holiday shopping, consider offering something along with your book available only during the holiday sale. If it’s a book for moms on dealing with stress, add a sampling of teas (be creative!).

8. Ebooks. If your book is available as an ebook, consider offering a discount for a limited time during the holidays.

9. Social Media/Author Newsletter. If you are active on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, or Google+, blog or have collected names for an author newsletter, show your holiday spirit with inspirational messages, especially as they relate to your topic/audience! Create a special holiday gift message on each platform, incorporating information from above (charity, special price, target audience, limited time offer, personalization, etc.). This may spark past buyers to purchase your book as a gift.

10. Local Events. Check your library, civic organizations, religious community, and schools to find relevant holiday events where you and your book would be a welcome addition. Offer to sign books in person with gift bags!

Most of all, have fun and enjoy the holiday spirit by connecting with new readers and fans!


What Exactly Makes a Best Seller?

Kate Knapp, Smith Publicity Director of Publicity Services
provides an overview of this often asked question

According to Merriam-Webster, a best seller is an article (as a book) whose sales are among the highest of its class. Often, best sellers are broken into categories based on genre (non-fiction, fiction, cookbooks, business).

The most recognized best seller list is the New York Times Best Sellers list. Other lists include USA TodayThe Wall Street Journal and Amazon.

To determine which books are classified as best sellers, sales from bookstores plus online sales are taken into consideration. The most often used source for determining best seller lists is Nielsen BookScan. According to their website:

Nielsen BookScan, which monitors the English-language book industry worldwide, gathers point-of-sale book data from about 12,000 locations across the U.S., representing about 75% of the nation’s book sales. Print-book data providers include all major booksellers and Web retailers, as well as food stores (excluding Walmart and Sam’s Club). E-book data providers include all major e-book retailers. BookScan enables its subscribers to access comprehensive reports from a wide variety of perspectives organized by title and author, by category, by region or by DMA. In a typical week, sales of over 400,000 different titles are collected, coded and analyzed, producing complete market information for retailers, publishers and the media.

Here are some interesting facts:

  • The term best seller is not associated with a specific volume of sales (for example, in the music industry a “gold” album means 500,000 sold).
  • Sometimes, an author or publisher will use the generic term “best seller” for publicity or marketing purposes on a book cover—without the best seller award being tied to a specific list.
  • Some books, over a long period of time, have sold many more books than the contemporary best seller.

The New York Times:

Started in 1942, The New York Times publishes the most well-known best seller list. Published every Sunday, with additional categories online, best seller categories include Hardcover Fiction, Hardcover Non-Fiction, Paperback Trade Fiction, Mass Market, Paperback Non-Fiction, and Children’s.

According to Fast Company, for The New York Times, the number of copies sold really has no relationship to becoming a best seller. The bestseller lists actually identify only how quickly a book sells rather than cumulative overall sales.

The Fast Company article further explains that how the list is exactly compiled is considered a trade secret. This is what is known: The New York Times prepares a list of expected bestsellers (based in part on past performance and on wholesale preorders and what the publishers tell them should be on the list) and sends that list to bookstores. The bookstores then rank the books and are provided space to indicate which books not on the list are big movers.

USA Today:

From DearAuthor: Each week, USA Today collects sales data from booksellers representing a variety of outlets: bookstore chains, independent bookstores, mass merchandisers and online retailers. Using that data, they determine the week’s 150 top-selling titles. The first 50 are published in the print version of USA TODAY each Thursday, while the top 150 are published online. The rankings reflect sales from the previous Monday through Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street Journal’s list reflects nationwide sales of hardcover books during the week ending the previous Saturday. From The Wall Street Journal: Nielsen BookScan gathers point-of-sale book data from more than 11,000 locations across the U.S., representing about 75% of the nation's book sales. Data providers include all major booksellers and Internet retailers, and food stores (excluding Wal-Mart and Sam's Club). The fiction and non-fiction lists include both adult and juvenile titles; the business and spotlight lists include only adult titles.


Amazon is now the biggest bookseller in America. Although sales rankings are available on the site and are even updated hourly, Amazon does not say how many unit sales it takes to make a book on Amazon a best seller.

According to Amazon’s website:

While the Amazon Best Sellers list is a good indicator of how well a product is selling overall, it doesn't always indicate how well an item is selling among other similar items. Category and subcategory best seller lists were created to highlight an item's rank in the categories or subcategories where it really stands out.

We choose a few of the most popular subcategories in which the item has a high ranking in relation to other items in that subcategory, and showcase the item's rank on the product page. As with the main Amazon Best Sellers list, these category rankings are based on sales and are updated hourly.

Note: For the Kindle Store, Amazon Best Sellers lists are divided into Top 100 Paid and Top 100 Free. Both lists are updated hourly. For competitive reasons, generally does not publish the ranking formula.

So what does it mean to be a best-selling author?  I like how DearAuthor blogger sums it up:  “All bestseller lists do is capture, imperfectly, what books are high in the national reading consciousness.  The next time you see ‘bestseller’ next to an author’s name, you might want to consider how flawed that status is and take a chance on a lesser-known author. Who knows what gem you might find?”


Start Planning for your Book to be Noticed in 2014 with Combined Book Exhibit

Don’t miss an opportunity to be a part of an upcoming Combined Book Exhibit (CBE) at a trade show.

Smith Publicity is an official reseller of Combined Book Exhibit (CBE). Combined Book Exhibit is one of the most widely recognized and highly respected names in the publishing community. For more than 75 years, CBE has been showcasing published works at national and international book shows and expos for just a small entrance fee and no need for you to travel. This service puts your book(s) in front of booksellers, literary agents, editors, publishers, librarians, book distributors, and foreign rights and other publishing industry professionals.

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