Checking in with the #MascotAuthor Community

Virtual readings, Netflix-binging, and bread-bakingdue to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, many of us are turning to new hobbies to pass the time in quarantine. For authors, this is also a time to work on your manuscript or market your book and connect with your readers.

Last week, we took to Instagram to ask our followers what questions they had about the Mascot Books publishing process; how they are connecting with their readers in light of COVID-19; and of course, what they are currently reading!

Whether you’re looking to start your publishing journey at Mascot Books, gearing up for your book’s release, or just need a pick-me-up, our quarantine blog has got you covered!

For the aspiring #mascotauthor…

Q. What questions do you have about the Mascot Books process?

A. “How do you get started?”
Whether you have a fully developed manuscript or just have an idea, we always encourage future Mascot authors to submit their book idea through our website. From there, one of our knowledgeable acquisitions editors can talk you through our process and our offeringsfrom editing and ghostwriting services to promotion and marketing plans.

A. “Is it possible to publish a graphic novel with you all?”
Yes! While Mascot Books’ start was in children’s books, today we publish any and all genres. Whether you are looking to publish a graphic novel or a nonfiction, our wide variety of offerings can bring your idea to fruition.

For the #mascotauthor community…

Q. How do you stay connected to the book/writing community?

A. “By following book and author accounts on Instagram”
Social media is a great tool for staying connected with the writing and #mascotauthor communities. To find more accounts to follow and interact with, try searching by hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (#mascotauthor, #mascotbooks, and #bookstagram are great places to start). Additionally, you can find more members of the #mascotauthor community by looking at photos that Mascot Books has been tagged in on Instagram.

Q. In what ways are you marketing your book and connecting with your readers?

“Virtual story times”
Last month, we posted a blog on virtual readings and Q&A sessions in light of event and school reading cancellations. To develop a successful virtual reading, be sure to first choose which platform you are going to use (Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, etc.), create an event structure, and finally develop a promotional plan.

A. “Creating coloring pages about the characters in the books I illustrate”
Whether you are an author or an illustrator, this is a great way to keep your followers engaged in your story and your characters! Alejandro Echavez (@alejoartworks on Instagram) posted coloring pages for the books he has illustrated, and Alysson Foti Borque (@thealycatseries on Instagram), author of the Alycat series, posted cut-out versions  of her characters for audience photos. These are both great examples of using your social media platform to engage and interact with your audience.

For anyone looking for their next quarantine pick-me-up…

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. The Happiness Trap

A. The Confessions of Frannie Langton: A Novel

A. “My own manuscript”
If you are reading and editing your own manuscript, check out our tips on how to write a compelling first chapter and how to incorporate stylistic variety into your writing.

A. “Way too many books at one time!”

Q. What is your favorite quarantine activity?

A. “Writing!”

A. “Puppy cuddles”

A. “Cooking”

A. “Reading, reading, and more reading!”
P.S. Check out our Mascot bookstore to find your next read!

Want to join the conversation? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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5 Steps to Building a Successful Social Media Book-Marketing Platform

In our recent post on social media influencers, we discussed how beneficial a strong social media platform can be for the overall success of your book. But what makes a great social media platform? Where do you begin? What are best practices for posting about your book and engaging with your followers? We’ve outlined our 5 steps for building and maintaining a strong social media presence for your book below.

social media blog

1. Decide what your marketing and branding goals are.

Branding is essential to making your book stand out in a saturated book market. The Branding Journal defines branding as “the process of giving a meaning to specific organization, company, products or services by creating and shaping a brand in consumers’ minds”. 

Before diving into social media marketing, decide what your branding goals are. Do you have future books in the pipeline and want to brand yourself as an author? Or do you want the social media account to be branded around the book itself? Whatever your brand may be, fully commit to this brand and work to make it cohesive and recognizable to your audience. 

While some of our #mascotauthors like Lori Orlinsky and Lauren Mosback successfully brand themselves as authors, others like Miranda Mittleman of the PAWS and THINK series and Nadine Haruni of the Freeda the Frog series successfully brand their book series.

2. Build or maintain your audience.

Another factor to consider when posting about your book on social media is whether you want to create a new profile specifically for book marketing, or if you want to post book content on your personal social media pages. Both of these options have their pros and cons.

While posting to your personal social media pages guarantees a built-in audience, you may not want to bombard your existing followers with book content. Additionally, mixing your personal content with book or author content may dilute your brand. 

Creating and posting from a new social media page dedicated to your book will guarantee a more cohesive book or author brand. However, you will need to build the audience for this account from scratch. 

If you do decide to create new social media profiles specifically for book marketing, there are a few steps you can take to build an audience:

  • Invite your current social media friends to like your Facebook page or use the Discover People feature on your new Instagram page to find accounts to follow.
  • Follow and interact with other Mascot authors! Joining the Mascot authors social media community is a great way to network and gain more followers in the book industry. Start by following the accounts that interact with Mascot Book’s posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and look at accounts that tag Mascot Books in photos on Instagram. Additionally, search for the #mascotbooks and #mascotauthor hashtags to find more author posts!
  • Use industry-specific hashtags in your posts to reach a larger audience! By using strategic and relevant hashtags in your posts, you can reach other accounts that may not be already following you. For example, if you have published a children’s book about bullying, the hashtags #childrensbooks and #stopbullying may give your post some more traction. Do be wary about the amount of hashtags you use–too many can make your post look cluttered and busy.
3. Curate your content and establish your voice. 

    Once you have decided on your branding goals and are proactively growing your audience, it is time to curate your social media content and establish your voice. 

    Before posting your content, ask yourself the following question: Why will my followers care about what I am about to post? 

    Empathizing with your audience is a great way to ensure that your posts are keeping readers engaged and interested. Although it is sometimes necessary to show off a little (posting event photos, sharing a great review you received, etc.), keeping your audience in mind when you post is essential to maintaining their attention. You want to post content that keeps readers informed, but more importantly, content that satisfies their needs and goals.

    Social media should be a conversation between you and your followers, rather than a one-sided broadcast. Initiate contact with your audience and listen to their opinions. By doing so, you not only will learn to curate better content, but you will also build a relationship of trust with these followers. This relationship is important to establishing a strong social media presence and a distinctive brand.

    You will also want to establish a voice in your posts. Are you excited, upbeat, and casual? Or are you knowledgeable, polite, and matter-of-fact? Developing a voice for your book or author profile will strengthen your brand in the long run.

    4. Create a social media calendar or tentative schedule.

    While it is important to be spontaneous and be able to post on the fly, you will want to set a tentative posting schedule or posting goals for yourself to keep yourself organized.

    When it comes to the question of how frequently you post, quality is better than quantity. You want to keep your followers engaged and up-to-date on important information teaser content, where the book can be purchased, upcoming book signing events or media appearancesbut you do not want to over-saturate your followers with the same content over and over. Which brings us to our next point…

    5. Be creative!

    In addition to posting quality content over a high quantity of content, think outside of the box! Here are our suggestions for some creative content you can incorporate into your posts:
    • Get outside and take some scenic photos of the book!
    • Listen to your followers, and post content that they want to see. For example, if you seem to receive more feedback and engagements with your posts about school readings, post more content about school readings.
    • Share followers’ photos or posts. If a follower has sent you a photo of them with your book, don’t be afraid to share that photo (with their permission, of course)! This not only strengthens your relationship with that follower, but it shows your audience that you care about your followers, and that your book is getting some traction. 
    • Set up a book giveaway! This is a great way to get your followers engaged and it allows you to reach a larger audience.

    Our final thoughts:

    Social media is a great tool for marketing and branding your bookbut it is not the silver bullet for achieving book sales. It should be used in conjunction with retail pitching for events and in-store placement, editorial coverage, and outreach to book reviewers and bloggers.

    For more author tips like these, visit our blog archive! Have questions? Leave a comment below. 

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    Why the Mascot Books Model Works for Social Media Influencers

    It’s a tale as old as time: as an author, it’s always important to have some sort of platform to promote your book. Whether this is a Facebook page geared toward friends and family, or a large Twitter account with thousands of followers, having an audience to post about your book to is a great way to help the title succeed. With social media influencers, that platform is already built in, which can make them a more likely candidate for traditional publishing. However, that route isn’t always what’s best for the influencer in the long run.

    Influencers like working with us for many reasons, but here are the most popular ones:

    Our authors own all their copyright

    By owning their copyright, authors not only own the manuscript, but they own anything we produce for them, like a cover design. This allows them to use those materials in any social media posts, have a say in how the book is marketed, and even use any characters they created in different stories.

    Owning the copyright gives authors control over any future variations of the book, like film or foreign rights. For example, our author Jason Khalipa was able to negotiate rights to a German version of his title As Many Reps As Possible. If he had not owned that copyright, the publisher would have assumed full control over the rights without Jason having a say in where his book was published.

    Higher royalties

    In order to work with traditional publishers, authors must get a literary agent to pitch the book to those publishers on their behalf. As long as the book is in print, the agent then assumes a percentage of all of the author’s profits. By going the hybrid route, the author cuts out the agent and works directly with the publisher to bring the book to life, and thus earns higher profit margins.

    First off, keep in mind that according to the industry publication Publisher’s Weekly, the average book sells about 3,o00 copies in its lifetime.

    So, for example (and this is purely speculative), if a publisher offers $10,000 as an advance for an author’s book, the agent will usually take 15% (before taxes and higher for foreign rights) or $1,500. The author is now down to $8,500 (before taxes). After that, the agent will also take a percentage of royalty sales. Most authors earn about 4 to 5% of every book sold, with some earning as high as 13% depending on the traditional publishing agreement. Therefore, if a book sells for $19.95, and a bookstore purchases it (at a wholesale discount) for $10.97, the author would earn about $0.44 to $1.43 for each book sold. 

    Now, keep in mind that before an author with a traditional publishing deal earns any profit from book sales, the advance they received needs to be recouped by the publisher. 

    With our model, because we’re cutting out the agent and don’t offer authors advances, our authors receive higher royalty rates (between 85 to 100% depending on where the book is sold). Say it costs $10,000 to produce the book, and with the $19.95 retail price and $10.97 wholesale purchase price, the author would earn $9.32 per book. They would only need to sell 1,072 copies, something an influencer could easily do, to earn back the upfront production cost. And if they do more direct-to-reader sales like an author signing, they would only need to sell 500 copies because authors receive 100% of the retail price when they sell books directly to consumers. That gives the influencer much more profit over the course of a book’s lifetime.

    More creative control over the process

    Giving up copyright means giving up creative control. When an author has a brand to uphold and monetize, having a say in what the cover looks like is very important. They would also approve any edits to make sure the content is exactly what they want to give their audience.

    When working with influencers who are producing children’s books (like Ashley and Jared from Bachelor in Paradise) and Instagram famous pets, having illustration control is a huge part of this. It’s important to get Darcy & Daisy exactly right or create Pip the Beach Cat in a fun way that represents their brand. The authors get to pick out their own illustrator and provide direction for what they would like to see. This makes it much more collaborative and gives the author confidence in their project.

    Working with influencers is a fun process for both the author and us. We love helping them bring their project to life and get the book out to current fans and new readers everywhere. Hybrid is a unique method for any author, but when the author could potentially get a traditional deal, this model works best for them in the long run.

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    How to Score a Successful Book Signing Event at a National Chain

    Your book has just been published (or is about to be) and you’re mapping out a killer marketing strategy. You may have heard that only bestselling authors have the opportunity to schedule a book signing at national chains. I’m here to tell you that’s not true and to offer tips on how it may be worth the effort. Events like signings and readings benefit both the retailer and the author. Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Costco, and other national retailers routinely host authors published by large traditional publishing houses as well as self-published authors. Such book-related events are part of the overall business strategy at bookstores, warehouse clubs, grocery stores, airport concessionaires, and other outlets. Because of these events, authors get their books into outlets that might not otherwise carry their titles. Retailers are able to showcase local authors’ work and get incidental business from the authors’ friends, family, and fans. What retailer is going to argue with more store traffic? It’s a true win-win! So how does an author go about setting up a book event at their local outlet of a national chain? Here are a few tips:
    1. Have a professionally published book. If you can’t meet this requirement, the rest of these instructions are useless. The content must be marketable. Would-be authors should walk the aisles of their local Barnes & Noble and examine the books. Really examine the books. They’ll see well-designed covers, well-constructed books, subject matter that is interesting and timely, and (of course) great writing. What they won’t see is books that “look self-published.” If you’re not familiar with this industry phrase, it means “sucky-looking.”
    1. Call or stop by the store you’ve targeted for your book event. Ask to speak with a store manager or the manager that coordinates author events. Be sure you’re able to succinctly communicate to the manager the following items:
    • Who you are and why you’re interested in holding an event in this particular store
    • A brief synopsis of your book
    • The book’s ISBN (org by Bowker), genre, and release date
    Aside: I talked to a Community Relations Manager (CRM) at Barnes & Noble recently and she told me, in no uncertain terms, if an author doesn’t know their book’s ISBN, or worse if an author doesn’t even know what an ISBN is, she’s not interested in working with that author. Be prepared to deliver a complimentary review copy for the decision-maker. Don’t be stingy…this is worth it!
    • Why a book event would be good for the store and its customers
    • How the store can procure copies for the proposed event
    Aside: This is important as stores like doing business through their normal channels, and that typically means sourcing through one of their preferred distributors like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or Partners Book Distributing. Stores aren’t generally interested in sourcing books either directly from you or from your publisher (if you have one). And if your book is only available as a non-returnable, print-on-demand title, a book event is impossible.
    1. You’ve successfully scheduled an event. Congratulations! But your work is just beginning. Keep in mind, the store provides the venue, access to its customers, and minimal promotion (like putting the event on their online calendar, but not much else) – the rest is up to you. That means mobilizing your friends, family, and groups you believe will be interested in supporting your event. I urge authors to reach out to local media, and by local media, I mean community newspapers, local radio shows, local bloggers, not The Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times. Sorry, but unless you’re J.K. Rowling or an established bestselling author, Oprah is probably not going to bring attention to your book event. Harsh, I know.
    1. The day of the event has finally arrived, so what’s expected of you? Simple. Follow the guidelines established by your host store. They’ve held many signings before yours, and will hold many signings after. They have a system in place and, if you ever want to be invited back, you must get with the program. That means create a poster exactly like they want, offer a giveaway (like a bookmark) that falls within their guidelines, and stick to your allotted timeslot. If you’re not sure about something you’ve planned, always ask in advance.
    1. My last bit of advice is to simply have fun. It’s rewarding to know you sparked the creation of something tangible that entertains, educates, is thought-provoking, and ultimately, is appreciated. This is your moment to shine…take a moment to bask in the glory! Part of basking process includes taking plenty of pictures and sharing the photos on social media, writing about your experience, and letting potential readers in on the buzz your book has created.
    I want to close by highlighting two Mascot Books authors that have followed the above advice and, as a result, have recently enjoyed successful events. Mascot Author Sean Stellato penned the non-fiction novel No Backing Down: The Story of the 1994 Salem High School Football Team. The book chronicles the story of his high school football team overcoming a controversial teachers’ strike that divided the community. The team went on to enjoy a Cinderella-like season that brought the fractured community back together. Sean initially focused on book signings at local outlets of national chains in Massachusetts. Within the first month of the book’s release, Sean was at Barnes & Noble, Costco, and independent bookstores. With a great book and a concerted local marketing plan, the title has gained national momentum and the author is now in-demand throughout the country. Here’s Sean at a Costco signing event. Sean Stellato No Backing Down at a Book Signing in Salem, MA                 Mascot Author Reetu Dua wrote the children’s book Ari Loves the Holidays as a way to help her son learn about and celebrate holidays throughout the year. The Calabasas, California resident had a well-written book, beautiful illustrations, and the subject matter was one that children (and parents) enjoyed. While not a local-interest title as such, Reetu wisely focused her marketing efforts locally by contacting the Calabasas Barnes & Noble about a book event. She did her research and knew the store had an established weekly children’s reading time and offered to hold a signing at a time that was convenient for the store. Reetu did a great job engaging her network and her presentation captured the attention of customers. The result was one of the most successful events held at that particular store over the past year. Because of Reetu’s efforts, she’s been invited back to hold a similar event for her second title Ari Loves the Solar System and other Barnes & Nobles have invited her to have events at their locations. Here’s Reetu at Barnes & Noble. Reetu Dua, Self Published, Barnes and Noble, Ari Loves the Holidays                     Feel free to contact me about this blog post or any other inquiries related to the world of publishing. Naren Aryal naren@mascotbooks.com @mascotnaren

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