How to Increase Book Sales: “Think” Tips from Bestselling Author Joanna Penn

IMG_2141Our thanks to Kiffer Brown of Chanticleer Book Reviews for this guest post. Shown at right, best-selling author Joanna Penn.

I had the pleasure and the good fortune to attend the 2015 PubSense Summit in Charleston, South Carolina. Attending the sessions and presentations was like drinking in information from a publishing fire hose!

Information was emanating from some of the brightest stars in today’s publishing world, stars like Joanna Penn. Joanna is a  New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, voted one of The Guardian UK Top 100 Creative Professionals.

The following are just a few of the highlights of Joanna’s keynote luncheon presentation at the PubSense Summit:

Think Scalable, Think Copyright

Remember the life of an author’s works is his/her lifetime plus 70 years, thus making an author’s intellectual property a potentially valuable part of his/her estate. This is the length of time granted by the U.S. Copyright law. Create works and then make your back list work for you for years to come. [Read more…]

Check Out Indie Recon Today!

ALLi_IRC2015-RGB_websitetabsolidIn case you’ve missed tuning into Indie ReCon this year, there are still plenty of sessions to attend!

IndieReCon is a free online conference for authors interested in self-publishing. It started in 2013 with co-founders Ali Cross and SR Johannes keen to create a conference that challenged the stigma of self publishing. [Read more…]

Twitter Gives Authors More Characters with ReTweet!

better-retweetsTwitter just officially launched its “retweet with comment” feature, which is great news for authors who hate retweeting without being able to add their own “spin.”

“Retweet with comment” allows us to embed a tweet into our own tweet, which lets us wordsmiths to get around Twitter’s 140-character limit when we add comments to what we’re sharing. The feature is now available on Twitter’s site and iPhone app (and sources say it will be available on the Android app soon).

According to this great piece by at TechCrunch:

“Forcing users to truncate their rambling thoughts into pithy soundbites was one of Twitter’s original charms, but as the platform matures, many influential users have been devising ways of getting around the character limit so they can use Twitter as their main public communication platform…”

How to use quote Tweet to add your own comments:

[Read more…]

Book Readings at 35,000 Feet? The First Mile High (Book) Club

Could this be your next author stage?

Could this be your next author stage?

Slate Magazine senior editor Jonathan L. Fischer recently filed this great piece: Southwest Airlines Knows How to Make Your Flight Even More Fun: Book Readings at 35,000 Feet!

He happened to be on a Southwest flight with his wife recently where author @EricGreitens, nonprofit founder, best-selling author, and former Navy SEAL, described his latest book—a series of letters about resilience and self-reliance that he wrote to a fellow veteran who suffered from PTSD—and read a chapter to passengers. [Read more…]

Creating New Connection Webs to Build Your Readership

Spider webOne of my favorite emails to send is always titled, “Mutual Introduction” and always ends with “Happy Connecting!”

From there the missive will vary. We may be connecting two authors who write similar work, or are in the same geographic area but haven’t met. The email may be connecting a friend to an author, or an author to a service they need, or a colleague to a media outlet, or…

I don’t set out to do this with purpose, but in looking through past emails I’ve discovered I’ve made a mutual introduction at least once a week through the past year. Some of those connections have fizzled, but the vast majority have gone onto be great collaborators, friends or partners, and that’s always a “warm fuzzy.”

But what’s more fascinating (and again, without purpose or plan) is how many have come back to be clients, collaborators and friends as a result. [Read more…]

Five Publicist Takeaways

PubSense_logoOur thanks to book publicist Claire McKinney for this guest post, with some takeaways for those who didn’t get to attend PubSense Summit…
My mother used to say that taking a vacation or a break from your regular routine was especially good for gaining perspective, opening doors, and making decisions.  I think business trips can do the same if planned well and embarked upon with an open mind.
Last week I attended the PubSense Summit in Charleston, SC as a faculty member, sharing expertise on marketing and publicity in the world of books, brands, and authors.  It is a really great conference, in part because the people who organize it are so nice and smart—they saw a dearth of opportunities for writers to get together in the southeast, so they produced their own event.

[Read more…]

Five Ways to Assess Your Book Cover Design

crowded book marketplaceOur thanks to Carol Chiao for this third in a series of posts to provide perspective on the business of writing, leveraging a marketing professional’s experience.

Welcome to DIYMBA for Writers! This is the third in a series of posts to provide perspective on the business of writing, leveraging my professional marketing experience. In this article, we’ll follow up on the concepts and importance of book cover design with how to assess design.

The prior DIYMBA article points out that, in a cluttered environment, your book only has seconds to interest a reader.

We need great design to break through and grab attention.

If you have the good fortune to work directly with a designer, here are principles on how to assess the designs they present to you.

  1. Be a great collaborator with designers.

Respect the expertise the designer brings to the project. It’s often human nature to see the negative first. So, take a disciplined approach and assess the creative work against the brief, not based on personal taste. Where does the design deliver the objectives in the brief? Where does it fall short?

The early rounds of design may be rough, for conceptual direction. If that’s the case, assess the design for the concept rather than the details. Good early rounds may also explore a broad range of concepts – this is helpful for determining when you’ve pushed the envelope enough.

Remember that feedback is an art.

Find several aspects you like and share the positives first. Then, share constructive builds with empathy. Provide feedback on WHAT needs to be changed, not executional specifics on HOW to change it. Consider:

  • Where does your eye go 1st, 2nd, 3rd?
  • Does this match up with what you stated in the creative brief’s hierarchy?
  • How well do the designs deliver the single most important message?

When assessing design, here are some known design principles that are helpful:

  • People see shapes / colors before numbers / letters. This is one reason that the consistency of font is important from book to book, particularly within a series but even across series.
  • Red and yellow tend to be the most disruptive colors. Brown and blue tend to be noticed less.
  • In Western countries, people scan left to right.
  • Consider legibility and tonality of Font (contemporary styles tend to be sans serif, traditional styles are usually serif fonts)


  1. The design should provide a long-term look.

    Identify what will stay and what will change. For instance, observe how Anabelle Bryant’s covers above keep consistent the font of the book title and author name, as well as the intensity of colors and depiction of hero and heroine. Meanwhile, each cover is unique in its color scheme and physical placement of the characters.Toshiba-Learner-Covers

  2. Leverage simplicity to break through.

    If there are multiple objectives to communicate or too many design elements, the eye doesn’t know where to go. In contrast, simplicity of design shown above breaks through.


  3. Assess design in context

    Assess design in context of your primary distribution channel. If your work will mainly be distributed electronically, assess the work as a thumbnail next to book covers from the same genre. How well do your covers stand out and communicate their key essence with a quick glance? If they’ll primarily be physically available on shelf, then the spine of the book is paramount.
    Assess the spine for instant appeal and recognizability within other titles of the same genre: If you’re expecting substantial display in-store, then assess the front cover design at full size.Front-Covers

  4. Ask about execution.

    Will images be photographed, illustrated or purchased from stock sources? If stock images will be used, will your cover have exclusive rights to the image? If not, you could find that same image on another book cover, which hampers your distinctiveness.

    What special print processes will be used? Which portions of the design will receive special embossing, or other print effects?

To recap, design is a critical tool to break through in crowded environments. If you have the good fortune to work directly with a designer, be a great collaborator by assessing creative ideas against the brief rather than personal taste. Think about the elements of design which will be consistent over the long term. Leverage simplicity to break through. Assess design in context of the book’s primary distribution channel. Ask about the execution of the design.

Design is an exciting part of bringing a book to market. Enjoy this portion of the creative process!

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what other concepts you’d like covered in DIYMBA. Contact me at twitter @carolchiao or

Carol-ChiaoBy day, Carol Chiao is a marketer, strategist and insights expert on global packaged goods brands. By night, she is a writer, wife to a great guy and mom to sweet and feisty twins. Together, they’ve lived in the U.S. and China, and fuel their sense of adventure with travel.

Overwhelmed? Two Ways to Take it Down a Notch

Image courtesy of marcolm at

Photo courtesy

 “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

One of the most common threads to come out of the recent PubSense Summit were valid author concerns about becoming overwhelmed with everything there is to know and do when it comes to promoting your work. And you’re right.

It’s a common lament among clients, too, and a subject we address occasionally in these pages. Let’s face it: all this “stuff” can be overwhelming.

We’ve been there. It’s one of the reasons we launched WWW and the Winner Circle – to help “shrink” the web for emerging authors. But with all the disruption in the digital publishing and marketing space, even we’re challenged to bring the resources down to a manageable workload.

Our reaction will typically wind up one of three ways:

[Read more…]

Five Basics Every Author Must Do When Marketing Online (Infographic)

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone! This infographic from (click on the title to read the full article or on the image to view larger) is “no fooling” and a great primer before we get into some “heavier” work this month… Enjoy (one to print out and commit to memory!)


Applying Professional Design Principles to Book Cover Design – Part I

Standing-Out-in-a-CrowdOur thanks to Carol Chiao for this second in a series of posts to provide perspective on the business of writing, leveraging a marketing professional’s experience.

In the last DIYMBA article, we defined brand as an author’s promise to readers. Design is the visual manifestation of that promise.

In the crowded space of a bookstore, real or digital, a book may only have seconds to break through to a reader. Good book cover design can achieve break through. Mediocre design can get lost.

This challenge is akin to a packaged good trying to grab attention in a grocery store filled with hundreds of thousands of products. So, what can we learn from packaging design principles? [Read more…]