Selling Words in a Visual World

A few months ago, I was browsing the Internet and somehow landed on a site that sold cupcakes. I stopped and stared mesmerized at the big color-saturated pictures of cupcakes on expanses of white background, coupled with elegant grayish, rather than garish black, script. At that moment, I thought, we need to sell books like cupcakes.

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Brilliant idea. Easy. Now where do we start?

Stumbling block number one. Books are not cupcakes. Sure, we can sell the book “package” like a cupcake. But, unlike cupcakes, each book has a different flavor, even genre books that have broad flavors like mystery or romance or science fiction. We eat certain flavors of cupcakes because we like them and we know that a cupcake called chocolate cake will be baked with more or less the same ingredients and will taste like chocolate cake. But a book called science fiction may match a broad flavor profile we like, but the ingredient mix–plot, pacing, writing style, vocabulary, points of views–produces enough variations in flavor to create endless subsets of tastes.

Each time we read a book, we’re adding new tastes we like or dislike, and only books by the same author can come close to the same flavor, and even then a flavor profile is not guaranteed. We’ve eaten enough cupcakes to have certain expectations of what different flavors taste like, so we can almost savor that amazing looking carrot cake cupcake before sinking our teeth into it. We haven’t tasted most books before, and those that we have, we’ll reread the copy we’ve already bought. If we gave away the copy or never owned it, a bright new cover or new creative packaging probably won’t be the primary factor that convinces us to read it again, or brings new readers to a book that’s been around for a while.

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Often just the opposite. You’ll go search for it on Project Gutenberg or check it out from a library, or pick up at a used bookstore or a library sale.

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So how does one sell a package that no one knows what’s inside, except some vague description of the “flavor”? We can give them a taste with an excerpt, but those are words, and we’re still faced with selling them in a visual world.

Does posing the book in interesting and enticing settings help sell it? That’s a popular approach on Instagram.

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Some books are easier to present visually than others. Nonfiction and memoirs can be presented visually because we can share photos and other images related to the books.

Fiction takes a lot more creativity. No matter the marketing, the only thing that really sells fiction is someone reading the words and liking them enough to rave about them to someone else.

And what about book trailers? Do they help sell books?

Because publishing is an ever changing industry, Bedazzled Ink tries to attend workshops and seminars offered online. Not long ago, a workshop on using social media for book marketing featured the social media people from two of the big five publishers. They talked about all the social media platforms but both said that Instagram was the best one for selling books. Instagram? Really? At that point, we had signed up for it but hadn’t figured out how to use it, so we decided to give it a try. It was a way of forcing ourselves to sell words in a pretty strict visual environment.

Much to our surprise, our overall sales increased through our efforts to visualize our written word. Not only that, it’s been easier on Instagram to increase Bedazzled Ink’s overall visibility.

Now we try to use some kind of visual with as many Tweets and Facebook posts as possible. Just like Annie‘s “You’re never fully dressed without a smile,” our social media posts needs that twirl of icing to be complete.

Not quite like selling cupcakes, but with each graphic and video we create, we’re learning to bake in our own way.

–Casey

Our Partnership with EBSCO

Sometimes we take on projects because they have a worth beyond just something entertaining or interesting to read. When Giovanna Capone approached us with the idea for Dispatches from Lesbian America several years ago, we realized the vision Giovanna, Xequina, and Cheela Romain Smith had to record personal histories and stories that were worth capturing and preserving was something that needed to be published. We also knew it would be an excellent resource for the scholarly and academic market.
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All it had to do was become a blip on the right radar. Well, not only did it blip, it has been chosen to be a part of a new Humanities Collection being developed by EBSCO, which is “the leading provider of research databases, e-journals, magazine subscriptions, e-books and discovery service to libraries of all kinds.” Anyone who has done any kind of research in a library has mostly likely used EBSCO.
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This may be just a regular thing for many publishers but for us it’s a validation that we weren’t wrong in our assessment of Dispatches From Lesbian America‘s importance to researchers, and the years and hard work Giovanna, Xequina, and Cheela put into this daunting project was completely worth it.
EBSCO’s new Humanities Collection is slated to be released in late 2018.

Stalking Our Books in the Wild

Getting your books into bookstores is kind of a holy grail for authors and publishers. Of course, every book can’t be in every bookstore or else bookstores would be gigantic multi-floored super warehouses. So how do books get into bookstores? The simple answer is, booksellers select them. The catch is, for a bookseller to consider a book they have to know it exists. That’s the part of the equation the author or publisher doesn’t have an easy time solving.

The easiest way for a publisher to get books into bookstores (and libraries) is to have a distributor with a good sales staff who attends bookseller tradeshows, makes presentations to buyers, goes on sales calls, puts out seasonal catalogs, etc. Even with all this, it still comes down to whether a bookseller wants a particular book in their store or not. Shelf space is extremely limited and turnover is fast, as bookstores always need to make room for the latest books.

The majority of Bedazzled Ink books are stocked by independent booksellers. Either a title fits a bookstore’s niche or taste, or it simply catches their attention. This is great because we love independent booksellers and are happy that sales of our books can help support them. But for most authors and publishers the shiniest prize is landing in a national chain. Nowadays, that means Barnes & Noble. Not just convincing your local Barnes & Noble to put your book on their local authors’ shelf, but to have it in Barnes & Noble stores across the country.

While it’s possible for an author or publisher to convince the Barnes & Noble corporate buyer to stock their books in their stores, it helps–a lot–to have a national distributor make a memorable presentation to the buyer. This doesn’t guarantee a book will land on the shelves, but at least it has a chance to make it onto the list of titles to be considered. This is important because the corporate office chooses the bookstore for each book. They may decide for a book to be stocked in just a handful of stores near where the author lives, or in a broader region, or nationally. Our books have been in all three scenarios.

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One of our books, Dog Church by Gail Gilmore, was shipped to thirty-seven Barnes & Nobles in New England. This made sense. Dog Church is about the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Not only did Barnes & Noble stock it, several independent New England booksellers also put it on their shelves. Just last weekend, Gail Gilmore walked into a bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire to see if they would sell her book and was pleasantly surprised to find four copies already on the shelf.

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Barnes & Noble also decides to stock titles nationally. This happened with Kingstone, Katherine Hetzel’s latest fantasy novel for children. Kingstone shipped to thirty-one stores across the U.S. Katherine lives in the UK, so there is no “local” for her in the U.S. Kingstone is sitting on the shelves at the Barnes & Noble at 82nd and Broadway in New York City and in Anchorage, Alaska. Every U.S. region is covered, but not necessarily stores in major population areas or well-known smaller cities or towns. For instance, it’s stocked in several stores in the Los Angeles area, but in only one store in all of Northern California (including San Francisco and the Bay Area)–in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento.

We decided to go on a field trip and visit the Citrus Heights’ Barnes & Noble to see one of our books in the wild, as we call it.

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We were curious about how Barnes & Noble selected which stores to send certain titles, so we had a nice chat with the customer services person. First, he confirmed that the individual store did not have a buyer. The corporate buyer selected the books for the stores. So we asked, why this store of all the stores in Northern California, was chosen to stock Kingstone. He said they’re one of the top sellers of children’s books. The light bulb went off for us–the seemingly random choice of stores across the country now makes sense. Now it’s up to the kids to pull it off those shelves and decide they want to take it home and read it.
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June Newsletter

Call for Submissions

Indivisible We Stand – Women’s Voices Raised in Protest is an anthology of tales from the front lines of the ongoing battle for equal rights for all women around the world. Raise your voice and send us your story to inspire other women today and in the future to take up the fight. And most importantly, to keep the truth alive.


New Releases

June

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Kingstone by Katherine Hetzel

Temple novice Katia wants nothing more than to become a priest in the Temple of the Triple Gods. She tries hard to do the right thing, but she’s on her last chance to convince Elder Sevanya, the King’s Priest, that she can do the job.

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Dungeness by Karen Polinsky

Protagonist and narrator Millie Langlie (daughter of a S’Klallam maiden and a Norwegian mariner) is an adventurous girl with a curious mind. Journeying from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend and back again, Millie discovers how knowledge of the past can teach us to love, forgive, and forge a new path.

July

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The Lady Professor by Robert L. Switzer

Emma Hanson, a poor farm girl born in 1900, has exceptional scholastic ability and a deep fascination with the natural world. Despite fighting her way through poverty, her family’s indifference, and prejudices against women attaining an education, she attends college. Under the tutorage of the college’s only female professor, Emma conducts her first research with dung beetles and micro-organisms and knows she’s found her calling.

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Always an Orphan by Shelby Adams Lloyd

“I was an orphan then, I am an orphan now, and I will always be an orphan.” Always an Orphan is a loving memoir of a unique childhood where family, to this day, are the orphans Shelby grew up with, and home is the orphanage she looks back upon with pride and love.

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Good People by E.J. Runyon

(GusGus Press) Bernie is a battered wife, escaping her husband Carlos for the summer. Meg is a writer and pre-op transsexual, dealing with father issues, and sharing her place with Baby, another woman on the edge. Relations come in all kinds of configurations–what we accept from some, what we must refuse from others, and how we recognize those who earn the right to be called family.

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Dee’s Gentlemen and Other Stories by Barbara Davies

Award winning Science fiction and Fantasy writer, Barbara Davies, has put together another mind-scratching “what if” collection of fantasy short stories including England’s Dr. Dee, mermaids, orcs, tree spirits, princesses, a Lavender knight, witches, and a heart-stopping Kentucky Derby in the sky.


Bedazzled Ink in the News

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Esfir is Alive by Andrea Simon is featured in Independent Publisher’s list of YA Books readers should check out. Esfir Is Alive also has a review in the June issue of Kids’ Book Buzz

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The Third Law by Jordan Falconer is on AfterEllen’s Official Summer 2017 Reading List.

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Where the Time Goes (GusGus Press) by Gale Walden has a review in Smile Politely, Champaign-Urbana’s Online Magazine and a mini-review in The News-Gazette (Champaign, IL).


Et cetera

Gail Gilmore signed copies of Dog Church (GusGus Press) at Bookends in Winchester, Massachusetts.

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Andrea Simon did a presentation about Esfir is Alive to about sixty students at her second visit to the Leonia Middle School in Leonia, New Jersey.

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Karen Polinsky presented her soon to be published book Dungeness at the 16th Annual Symposium of Native and Indigenous Scholarship at the University of Washington, Seattle, on May 17th. The theme of the symposium is “Stories of Resistance from Indigenous People.”

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Diana Corbitt talked about Ghosters (Dragonfeather Books) to fifth graders at Tolenas Elementary School in Fairfield, California.

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Bedazzled Ink spent a pleasant Sunday morning at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California. It was a beautiful sunny, but cool, day. Best of all we got to meet two of our authors. Karen Polinsky, author of Dungeness (coming out this month), and Michal Strutin, author of Judging Noa, one of our 2018 books.

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June Events

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Michelle Carter will be reading excerpts from From Under the Russian Snow (September 2017) and handing out bookmarks at the San Mateo County Fair from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. on June 10th in San Mateo, California.

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Joan Annsfire, Roxanne Ansolabehere, Lenn Keller, Barbara Ruth and the editor, Giovanna Capone will be reading from Dispatches From Lesbian America at Laurel Book Store from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on June 10th in Oakland, California.

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May Newsletter

Call for Submissions

Indivisible We Stand – Women’s Voices Raised in Protest is an anthology of tales from the front lines of the ongoing battle for equal rights for all women around the world. Raise your voice and send us your story to inspire other women today and in the future to take up the fight. And most importantly, to keep the truth alive.


New Releases

May

dungeness_lg

Dungeness by Karen Polinsky

Protagonist and narrator Millie Langlie (daughter of a S’Klallam maiden and a Norwegian mariner) is an adventurous girl with a curious mind. Journeying from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend and back again, Millie discovers how knowledge of the past can teach us to love, forgive, and forge a new path.

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Ghosters by Diana Corbitt

When twelve-year-old Theresa Martinez’s mom dies, money problems force her family to move into her dead grandmother’s creepy old mansion. Immediately, strange things start to happen. The powdered sugar she’s been searching the kitchen for suddenly falls out of a cupboard. Closed curtains are mysteriously open—all fun stuff for Theresa’s new ghost-obsessed friend Kerry. They soon discover that ghosts are just tip of the stunning mysteries the old house holds.

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The Lady Professor by Robert L. Switzer

Emma Hanson, a poor farm girl born in 1900, has exceptional scholastic ability and a deep fascination with the natural world. Despite fighting her way through poverty, her family’s indifference, and prejudices against women attaining an education, she attends college. Under the tutorage of the college’s only female professor, Emma conducts her first research with dung beetles and micro-organisms and knows she’s found her calling.

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Always an Orphan by Shelby Adams Lloyd

“I was an orphan then, I am an orphan now, and I will always be an orphan.” Always an Orphan is a loving memoir of a unique childhood where family, to this day, are the orphans Shelby grew up with, and home is the orphanage she looks back upon with pride and love.

June

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Kingstone by Katherine Hetzel

Temple novice Katia wants nothing more than to become a priest in the Temple of the Triple Gods. She tries hard to do the right thing, but she’s on her last chance to convince Elder Sevanya, the King’s Priest, that she can do the job.


Bedazzled Ink in the News

GCLS announced the Finalists for the Goldie Awards. The winners will be announced July 8th.

TheUrnCarrier_sm The Urn Carrier by Chris Convissor
Dramatic/General Fiction
Debut Author
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Dramatic/General Fiction
WomanofthYear_sm Women of the Year by Karen Richard
Anthology/Collection (Fiction)
hekolatispromise_sm Hekolatis’ Promise by T.J. Mindancer
Science Fiction/Fantasy
afteratime_sm After a Time by Laurie Salzler, cover by Lynn Starner
Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design

Et cetera

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Nina Packebush, author of Girls Like Me (Bink Books YA, November 2017) has an article in Hip Mama about Reimagining Juno.

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Dog Church (GusGus Press) by Gail Gilmore received a nice shout out in the April issue of HarvardWood Highlights.

Ruth Rouff signed copies of Pagan Heaven (GusGus Press) at the Local Author Meet & Greet at the Barnes & Noble in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on Saturday.

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Andrea Simon did a presentation about Esfir is Alive for a senior program at Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, Long Island.

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Gale Renee Walden read from her latest book of poetry, Where the Time Goes (GusGus Books), at The Book Cellar in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday.

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S. Rose sports her Silver Medal in General Fiction for her book Sparrow in the Wind at the Florida Book Awards annual banquet in Tallahassee on April 12th.

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Bedazzled Ink spent a sunny spring Sunday afternoon in Books Inc, located in charming downtown Alameda, California, listening to authors read from Dispatches From Lesbian America and exploring the great selection of books. Thank you to Books Inc for putting together wonderful displays of Dispatches and for being a gracious and welcoming host.

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May Events

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Ruth Rouff will be reading from and signing copies of Pagan Heaven (GusGus Press) as a part of the South Philly Book Launch hosted by the South Philadelphia Library, May 6th at 2:00.

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Giovanna Capone will be selling and signing copies of In Our Neighborhood (GusGus Press) and Dispatches From Lesbian America at the Castro Valley Book Fair, at the Castro Valley Library (Castro Valley, California), on May 6th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.

Giovanna will also be reading from and signing copies of her books at Books at Park Place in St. Petersburg, Florida on May 13th from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

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Gail Gilmore will be reading from and signing copies of Dog Church (GusGus Press) on May 16 at 7:00 pm at Book Ends bookstore in Winchester, Massachusetts.

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Katherine Hetzel, author of StarMark and Kingstone (Dragonfeather Books) will be talking about writing for both children and adults on May 17th at 1:00 pm. All budding authors are welcome. The event is a part of the Nanpantan Festival, St. Mary’s Church, Nanpantan Road, Loughborough, Leicestershire.

Children’s Book Week

This is Children’s Book Week. Established in 1919, it’s the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. For us, it’s the chance to show off our persistent girls for the middle grade reader. It’s also a reminder that the majority of children’s books have male protagonists, and we need many more persistent authors to make the number of books with female protagonists equal to those with male protagonists.

Our persistent girls are strong, full of purpose, and stop at nothing to reach their goals and potential.

Meet Addie, Dina, Mackenzie, and Skylar. They love sports and are determined to overcome any problem to be the best they can be to play their favorite team sport.

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Meet Katia, Irvana, and Caidy, persistent girls with warrior spirits, who are quick on their feet, and have the cunning to solve any seemingly insurmountable obstacle that gets in the way of their goal.

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Meet Theresa and Camila, who know the importance of knowledge and research to help them deal with the supernatural and the mythological.

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All of these books make great summer reading for the kid who loves sports, fantasy adventure, ghosts, mythological beings, and science . . . and girls who know how to get things done.

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