Archive for the ‘book marketing’ category

Book Trailers


Much has been written about book trailers and I’m not sure they help, hinder, or don’t matter at all when it comes to book sales. What purpose do they really serve? Should they “tell the story” or just evoke the mood created by the storyteller? If they don’t drive sales are they a waste of time/energy/resources that could be better spent doing other sorts of promotions?

Whatever the verdict, BSP’s debut novels now both have book trailers. The trailer for our first book, The Samaritan by Fred Venturini was created by me (Kristina) and our fellow publisher Nancy, of Stonebrook Publishing. The trailer for our second book, Dancing with Gravity by Anene Tressler, was created by Anene and her husband Jim.

Give them a watch and let us know what you think. Check them out here:

The Samaritan Book Trailer


Dancing with Gravity Book Trailer


Vote on Cover Concepts for BSP’s First Title


We’re gearing up to release our very first title: The Samaritan by Fred Venturini. We’ve been working with designers to come up with cover art that is at once arresting–i.e. that will make you pick the book up–and that conveys the feel, tone, mood, and essence of the book. This is no easy task because The Samaritan is one helluva book! And, because each of us here at Blank Slate Press has a favorite concept (arrgh!), we’re depending on you to help us decide. We started with 14 concepts and have had members of our Editorial Board weigh in with their picks. Now, we’ve narrowed it down to five. So, here’s what we’d like you to do:

1. vote on the cover that STANDS OUT the most, i.e., the one that you’d be most likely to pick up when browsing at a bookstore
2. read the short synopsis below
3. revisit the covers and vote again if you’ve changed your mind.
4. REMEMBER…these are just concepts…based on which concept wins, we’ll still tweak and fiddle a bit more…and who knows? We may even have another brilliant brainstorm of an idea that we all love so much there’s no question it will have to win.

PLUS – if you go to and sign up for our newsletter, you’ll be entered to win a signed hardback copy of The Samaritan. You can also read an excerpt from the book here.


The Samaritan – A  Synopsis
Dale Sampson is a nobody. A small town geek who lives in the shadow of his best friend, the high school baseball star, it takes him years to even gather the courage to actually talk to a girl. It doesn’t go well. Then, just when he thinks there’s a glimmer of hope for his love life, he loses everything.

When Dale runs into the twin sister of the girl he loved and lost, he finds his calling–he will become a samaritan. Determined to rescue her from a violent marriage, and redeem himself in the process, he decides to use the only “weapon” he has–besides a toaster. Although his “weapon” leads him to fame and fortune as the star of a blockbuster TV reality show, he learns that being The Samaritan is a heartbreaking affair. Especially when the one person you want to save doesn’t want saving.

The Samaritan is a searing and often brutally funny look at the dark side of human nature. It lays bare the raw emotions and disappointments of small town life and best friends, of school bullies and first loves, of ruthless profiteers and self-aggrandizing promoters—and of having everything you know about human worth and frailty questioned under the harsh klieg lights of fame.

Now…If you need/want to change your vote, go back up and vote again.

Our Predictable Irrationality, and how it relates to the publishing industry


Ordinarily, I’m not the kind of person who truly enjoys non-fiction books. I tell myself to read the popular Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and that Freakonomics will be both interesting and informative (not to mention that Steven Levitt is a fellow UChicagoan); but nine times out of ten, the lure of a good novel proves too strong. Fortunately for me, I was recently able to overcome this prejudice in order to read Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. After the first few pages, it became clear that this would be no chore to endure for education’s sake, but a delight to read. Dan Ariely writes in an engaging, enthusiastic tone, addressing everything from expansive social questions to his own life and day-to-day irrational decisions.

The pleasant, often humorous, manner of writing that Ariely employs might at first lead readers to view the book as a fun and rather trifling look at the silly choices that people make. In reality, however, Predictably Irrational imparts a message whose gravity is enormous. Both standard economic theory and the average American (living in a country dominated by free-market mentality) tend to agree that people are consistent selves, capable of making rational decisions. Dan Ariely has come to tell us that this simply isn’t so.

In reality, people are inconstant and their decisions are usually based more upon unconscious predispositions and emotional states than upon logic; in short, people are irrational, and predictably so. With a plethora of ingenious experiments, Ariely demonstrates the failure of traditional economic thinking to account for the repeatedly irrational decisions that people make, from overvaluing the things that they own to feeling healthier after taking an expensive medicine than after taking an identical, cheaper pill. The traditional rules of supply and demand that Adam Smith taught us to hold so dear are simply unable to account for the irrationality of consumers; and in order to make informed decisions on everything from buying a house to choosing a spouse, people must first recognize and understand the factors driving their decisions.

These revelations apply to practically every industry, and the publishing and marketing of books is no exception. A savvy marketer must attempt to take into account the various, at times conflicting, tendencies of the predictably irrational consumer. This means that when selling a book, he must consider both the “zero price effect” – the emotional charge associated with free goods that leads people to massively overvalue them – and also the predispositions associated with price – if something is expensive, people automatically assume that it must be good quality.

The marketer must recognize the power of relativity, and the advantage that an option A has over an option B if the two are presented alongside a less desirable version of A. In other words, if a person is undecided between two books (or houses, cars, or men), the introduction of a third book that is similar to but slightly worse than one of the originals will make this better version seem the clear choice – not just over its unfortunate partner, but over its legitimate competition as well. With these demonstrations and many more, Ariely makes his point convincingly. We are not rational, and whether we want to successfully publish and sell a book or simply choose which one to read next, we must recognize that fact. And if I have convinced you at all to think twice before grabbing the next novel with a flashy cover, then I suggest that you consider instead choosing your next book based on my recommendation, and read Predictably Irrational.

–     Anna Tripodi, summer intern

The Magic of Instant Gratification: My Kindle and Me


Yesterday I read the New York Times’ piece about Amazon’s Kindle sales v. hardcover sales. I put a link here on our blog and and “tweeted” the link. I think the numbers speak for themselves–people want to read. And ultimately, they don’t care if it’s on paper, on an audio cd, on an electronic device or sewn together in a parchment codex or rolled up in a papryi scroll. A good story will be read. I believe the medium is important, but, ultimately, it is the message that matters.

The story is the product. The author is the creator. The editor is the polisher. The publisher is the packager. And while I love book cover design and I love to hold books, I love to READ them more.

As an aspiring novelist and brand new publisher, I hope someday to make money from the creation and sales of books. And as an avid reader who places a high value on the experience of reading a well written novel that transports me somewhere new and exciting or that opens doors to new ideas and teaches me something extraordinary, I am willing to pay a fair price for a book no matter what the format. Hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book…it doesn’t matter. The creative team should be fairly compensated for the work they produced.

Before the ebook, I was content, as my hubby still is, to read reviews, make lists of books to read, browse book shelves and get recommendations from friends and book clubs. However, being an immediate gratification type of gal, I also had been known to read a review and then get in my car and actually go buy the book right then and there. It didn’t matter if it was just out and still in hardback. If I wanted to read it–no, needed to read it–I would go get it and start reading. Immediately. That day.

The Kindle was a dream come true for me. Although I love to hold books and underline passages and write in the margins and dog ear pages, I, basically, want to read. I want to get to that first line and read all the way through to the last. Although I love a well-turned phrase and get all warm and fuzzy over beautifully constructed sentences, I ultimately read for character and story. I get so engrossed I will laugh out loud and bawl my eyes out. It is a common occurance for me to start a book when I go to bed and finish it by breakfast.

So, when I get in the mood for a book, I want to dive in. But what if there is no Kindle version?  I’ve gotten used to my instant gratification and I get aggravated (okay, angry) when there is no e-version for me to dive right into, so to speak. Why would a publisher delay release of an e-book, or a paperback, for that matter?  Because the publisher or the author wants me to buy the hardcover. Book clubs routinely postpone tackling a book because it is in hardcover. They wait until the paperback is released. Now, some publishers are doing the same for e-books. If I really, really, really wanted to read the book, I could buy the hardcover–and, as I said, I’ve often done that to my hubby’s chagrin. (I’m Ms. instant gratification makes me happy, he’s Mr. delayed gratification is even sweeter.) Or I could go to the library and check it out and not spend the money. But the fundamental question is: why should I have to? Why make the customer pay more or work harder to get their hands on your product? Especially now when it is so easy to deliver it wirelessly? Poof in 15 seconds I could have the book I want and start in on my next adventure.

For instance,  a couple of days ago I read a review of a book called The Messenger of Athens: A Novel by Anne Zouroudi. It’s a modern-day murder mystery set in the Greek Isles. Since I had just finished a book and since I’m writing a murder mystery set in Greece (albeit in 440 BCE), I wanted to read it. I went to Amazon to buy it for my Kindle and it wasn’t due to be released until July 19. It’s only a couple of days aways, I thought, I can wait. So I preordered it. Once the book was released, it would automatically appear on my Kindle the next time I turned it on to synch. And sure enough, I turned on my Kindle last night, July 19, hit the synch button and there it was. I started reading immediately, a happy customer.

And, as an added bonus, no trees were killed in the making of my e-book , no delivery trucks chugged out CO2 to get my book to me, and I didn’t have to get in the car and drive to the local bookstore. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are costs involved to mining the minerals and manufacturing an e-reader. But still, laying in bed, all snuggled up and ready for an adventure, pressing a tiny little button and having my adventure appear before my eyes, was like magic.

And isn’t that what reading is all about?

– Kristina

Book design – creating the vessel to carry the content


We should never underestimate the importance of good design. Often discarded as simply “marketing” or “advertising,” design is generally considered a lesser form of art. Yet it holds a power that much traditional art doesn’t have. It has the power to make you buy things. It has the power to make you feel like you need something, to offer a product that could possibly change your life. Perhaps this is less admirable, but perhaps it is more powerful. Especially when you’re selling a product that is truly important.

Unlike a new kitchen appliance that promises to chop your vegetables for you (twice as fast!), books are products of creativity, intelligence, emotion, and, most importantly, art. But they still need to be sold—not just for money, but to convince people to read them—and for that, we need design. Book design should not be thrown aside on the belief that it is only the meaning of the words that are important. That is simply not true. A good book is a beautiful and harmonious interaction between the visual and textural aspects of the book and the story, the words. It is not just cover design that is important, but also weight, texture, layout, format. Think of the words as water and the book as the vessel—without it the words would fall over themselves in chaos.

Designing a book cover is tough because there is little freedom: we have a set expectation and template for what a book looks like. It is rectangular. There is a title, perhaps a subtitle. The author’s name. And there is some manipulation of space (whether through illustration, text, or photography) that conveys, visually, the novel itself. Though there are millions of ways to manipulate that blank rectangular space, publishers often take the easy way out and forgo creativity for predictability.

For instance, most people can imagine what 99% of all “romance novels” look like: the airbrushed, painted image of the muscular hero looming over the flushed heroine. Sci-fi and fantasy novels are usually better, but only slightly: their major problem is not the viewer’s need to either gag or laugh (as in the romance novel’s case) but instead the cover designer’s compulsion to include “the ‘dramatic’ pose, the ‘epic’ vista and the ‘adventuring party’ combining warrior and mages” in the words of James Long, blogger. For imaginative readers—as readers of fantasy and science fiction often are—this is almost an insult, as if the reader couldn’t just read the book and come up with his own visual description of the characters and the setting. (Go here for some true cover-art drivel.) A cover should be evocative of what is inside, not indicative.

There are a great many fiction novels out there that deal almost exclusively with romance, or horror, or fantasy. They just have better covers and are marketed differently. It’s almost as if you get a good cover design and the right publisher and your book is immediately marketed as “fiction” instead of  “crime” or “romance”. With that label comes a sense that the book is somehow written better, whether that’s actually true or not. A cover is extremely important in convincing potential readers that the words inside are not as cheesy, conventional, and craptastic as the art on the outside. A creative cover points to a creative novel, just like a cheesy cover points to a cheesy novel.

Visually, there are many ways to create a fantastic cover. It needs balance, which in artspeak means a feeling of visual equality (color, shape, line, value), symmetrical or asymmetrical. The center of interest, the area that first grabs your attention, should be intriguing and will pique your curiosity. Because there is text on the page, proper font selection is vital. This is something that many people simply don’t understand, not just in book covers but on websites, in presentations, etc. Design geeks will be able to name off several of their favorite fonts. (See the awesome Periodic Table of Typefaces.) The final cover should be unified, or harmonious. This simply means that all of the visual and design elements come together to create one whole image. A book cover doesn’t need to be emotionally pleasing but it sure does need to be visually pleasing. Recognizing good design is instinctive for most people—but creating it is a whole different story. (Check out the WSJ article on the evolution of the cover art for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

In short, a really great book design has three things: marketability, artistic/design value, and a deep connection with the words inside. Book design should capture the essence of the story (or message, for non-fiction), not the plot, in a way that is both memorable and marketable. And, like I said before, it should evoke the book, and carry the words to the reader in a vessel that is unique to the water-words it carries.

–          Elena Makansi

Update: we decided to add a few examples of what we consider good design: (check out many more here)

Book Trailers


Book trailers, as opposed to the well-known movie trailers, are a relatively new phenomenon. A few blogs have been tracking them and compiled the best of the best. Click here and here to review them.

But, for authors, the best one has to be book launch 2.0 which was the proud winner of the 2010 Moby Award for Best Performance by an Author (

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Book Trailers“, posted with vodpod

How the Paperback Changed Popular Culture


I just came across an article on about the inception and cultural impact of the paperback novel. It’s a short piece and a nice read. You can find it here:

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