Make the Bestseller List #greatwebsite

April 7, 2011

How integral is a great website to pushing your sales and listmaking status?

We believe having a great website invariably assists in reinforcing the urge to purchase. The buyer is welcomed, and reassured that the purchase is supported. The difference in entering a great website vs a mediocre or poor one is similar to the difference in entering a house that is a mess vs entering one that is tastefully decorated and picked up. It’s just more welcoming and easier to get through. It leaves the visitor with a better feeling, regardless of how much the visitor may already love you (though if said visitor doesn’t already love you, a messy house is a turn-off, isn’t it?). Furthermore, if the author’s site can display a strong community aspect, then the welcoming feeling is extended past comfort into interactivity.

Of course if you don’t have a great book then there is no level of website investment will help. And if you don’t have publisher support behind you in the form of a print run that can support a list hit, then again, no effort on your part will land you on a list. And if your promo budget doesn’t support a really good professionally designed and maintained site, then don’t kick yourself over it — you will do the best you can. But it is hard to deny a connection between a great website and the ongoing building of a solid following. And a solid following unequivocally helps in terms of sales, primarily early sales which lead to listmaking. And impressive early sales almost always come into play during contract negotiations.

And the hip bone’s connected to the backbone…

* Jennie actually hit the list many months ago. I *just* found this screenshot in my files.

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We Love Bookmarks: Reason #3

January 28, 2011


For the writer: They’re cheaply printed and easily changeable.

I love when we can take a backside to a bookmark and add to an author’s growing backlist. We highlight your new book on the front and then merely work on an existing design for the back.

And of course, with a fantastic front, usually simple color changes are all it takes to accommodate a new cover and achieve a fresh look.

When good design is applied in this respect, a bookmark series is born! Fantastic for loyal fans as keepsakes, and oh-so-good looking at booksignings.


Also check out Reason #2:

This one is is more of a plea for all readers: Please don’t hurt your book!Remember the preschool adage: “Books are our friends”? Well, that’s still true, even now that we are all grown up. Be nice to your book. A bookmark can help.

A bookmark is always better than folding the corner of the page. Don’t hurt the page.

And Reason #1!

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Persimmon Gingerbread Cakes (with assistance from a certain “Trader Joe”!)

November 9, 2010

With their signature selection of healthy eats and specialty imports at ridiculously low prices, Trader Joe’s is my happiest place on Earth. My condolences to the 24 states of the Union that do not have TJ’s yet; hopefully this amazing grocery chain is coming soon to a shopping center near you!

Sticky gingerbread cupcake + persimmon whipped cream = unbelievable!

One of my favorite Trader Joe’s products is their Deep, Dark Gingerbread mix. I’m absolutely not above using boxed cake mixes, but I can’t resist sprucing them up. Last winter, I was looking for an easy, festive cupcake I could quickly get together for a holiday party. I had a box of the gingerbread mix and all the necessary ingredients to make it. I also had three Hachiya persimmons from my local farmers’ market. Ideas percolated. Persimmon Gingerbread Cupcakes were born.

I love lemon, so I added lemon zest to the batter and a sticky lemon glaze to the baked cupcakes, which makes them akin to mini sticky puddings and keeps them moist for days. That said, the lemon component is completely optional. The cakes are absolutely delicious with just the persimmon puree.

I also love whipped cream, so I “whipped up” a persimmon whipped cream as the topping. Again, completely optional. Without the whipped cream, however, I recommend the lemon glaze for some pizzazz, but feel free to experiment on your own. An addition I haven’t tried yet: a third cup of raisins and/or toasted pecans… next time!


Persimmon Gingerbread Cakes
(makes ~15)

The magic ingredients!
The magic ingredients!

1 box of Trader Joe’s Deep, Dark Gingerbread mix
2 large eggs (the box of mix calls for 1; I use 2!)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup water (the box calls for 3/4 cup, but the liquid in the persimmons makes up the difference)
¾ cup persimmon puree, or approx. half of the yield (see instructions below)
Zest of one lemon (optional)
Lemon glaze (optional; see instructions below)

Preheat your oven to 375º and prepare your muffin tins, either by lining them with paper wrappers, or greasing each tin (my approach for this recipe).

Mix eggs, oil, and water in a bowl until blended. Stir in the Trader Joe’s gingerbread mix. Fold the cooled persimmon puree, and lemon zest if using, into the batter.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins so that each cup is two-thirds full.

Bake 15-20 minutes on the center rack until the batter appears set and a toothpick comes out cleanly from a cupcake’s center.

If you decide you use the lemon glaze, poke four holes in the hot, fresh-from-the-oven cupcakes, then generously spoon the glaze over them. Cakes are best served warm with a dollop of persimmon whipped cream (recipe below).

Persimmon Puree

3 ripe Hachiya** persimmons, peeled and cut into small chunks, core removed
¼ cup water
1 ½ t sugar
A dusting of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Simmer over low heat till the persimmons begin to breakdown, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes.

Use a food processor or blender to puree the persimmons. Allow to cool, then split the yield into two equal portions of about ¾ cups each.

**Note: Hachiya persimmons are shaped like acorns, versus Fuyu persimmons, which are tomato-shaped and not as soft. Hachiyas (pictured above) are much better than Fuyus for baking.

Easy Lemon Glaze (optional)

¼ cup of lemon juice (the juice of 1 medium lemon, in my experience)
¾ cup powdered sugar

Mix together till all powdered sugar has dissolved and the mixture is opaque and liquidy.

Persimmon Whipped Cream (optional)

1 cup heavy cream
A dusting of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a drizzle of honey
¾ cup persimmon puree, or approx. half of the yield (see instructions above)

Beat heavy cream on high in an electric mixer. As cream begins to thicken, add cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey, and continue to beat.

When peaks have formed and the cream appears to be fully whipped, turn off mixer and gently fold persimmon puree into the whipped cream.

For more of my favorite cupcake recipes, click here!

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We Love Bookmarks: Reason #2

October 19, 2010

Reason #2… this one is is more of a plea for all readers: Please don’t hurt your book!

Remember the preschool adage: “Books are our friends”? Well, that’s still true, even now that we are all grown up. Be nice to your book. A bookmark can help.

My daughter's favorite bookmark. She also has one that is penguin-themed.

A bookmark is always better than folding the corner of the page. Don’t hurt the page.

A book that is left on the side table open, face down is suffering a strained spine. If this is a book you don’t care about then big deal, right? But why are you wasting your time on a book you don’t care about? I think you care. Please treat it nicely — it’s giving you so much pleasure.

And if you take the above points and group them under a Good Parenting umbrella, you can instill a feeling of respect for books (and by extension: reading). And if teaching kids to be nice to books in turn fosters respect for books… well, there’s only good in that.

Don’t miss why We Love Bookmarks: Reason #1

And yes, we design bookmarks, too. 🙂

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Yes! Yes! Yes! I agree! I concur!

September 20, 2010

I love this on many levels. As a designer I am humbled. As someone who respects the spoken and written word and the power of a good, well-formed sentence, I applaud this. As a parent I am relieved that there are people like Taylor Mali who choose to become teachers. He is my new hero. And this is both beautiful (typography credit below), and so very, very right on the mark.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

And yes, this is the same unbelievably talented guy who wrote this viral wonder that circled the globe attributed to “anonymous” for years:

Good things.

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We Love Bookmarks: Reason #1

September 13, 2010

For the writer: It does everything a business card does, but better.

1) When you, the author, meet someone at random — whether at a booksigning, on a plane, in a store, or socially: “Oh, what do you write?” You want to be able to offer a leave-behind — something to reinforce to that person that they were interested in you, and look, here is your book. A business card doesn’t contain info about your latest book release (unless you are updating your business card that often, in which case, um, yeah — we want your business, for sure!)

2) A business card contains your personal information. And really, besides your website address, do you really want to give this random person any more info?

3) Handing a business card in this instance is inappropriate. This person is not a colleague — he/she is a potential reader. (Unless this person is a colleague, in which case you need a business card, too.)

We have lots of reasons bookmarks are good business. Stay tuned.

(And yes, we do design bookmarks. Thanks.)

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Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner Stand Up

August 26, 2010

Today, on this 90th anniversary of Women’s Right To Vote (yes, folks, it’s less than 100 years old!), let’s take a moment to look at how far we still have to go.

Jodi Picoult

The past week sparked controversy as Jonathan Franzen’s latest book approaches release and the critics work themselves into a frenzy over it. Why do the “white male literary darlings,” as New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult puts it, get so much praise while writers of commercial fiction are largely ignored? Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, also a #1 New York Times bestselling author of women’s fiction have been tweeting (check out their twitters here and here) and commenting to the press that critics’ acknowledgment is completely uneven. Today, they were interviewed by Jason Pinter on The Huffington Post. Weiner notes:

If you write romance, forget about it. You’ll be lucky if they spell your name right on the bestseller list.

Jennifer Weiner

It’s a very good read. Both women’s comments are intelligent and witty and not at all whiny, as it is so easy to be when getting into this subject.

For related reading, please check out my blog post from last summer, when Eloisa James and Julia Quinn were extensively featured in USA Today. Such focus, though richly deserved, is still very rarely given.

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Shhh… The Designers are Working

August 13, 2010

I love watching the team work. As art/creative director I am definitely part of the process, but I don’t have my hands on the mouse or the the sketchpad. We have design summits here—stretches of time where Misono and Estella turn off email, and I don’t bug them with new or little things (this is saying a lot as things come in all day long here, everyday), but I pop over there every hour (give or take) to discuss and analyze where things are going. All we focus on is creating the design at hand.

Yesterday, when I wrote most of this post, there were stunningly beautiful creations in progress on the monitors across the room. The designs had been unfolding, layer by layer. These things take time, and experimentation, and a lack of interruption. Estella worked for about a half hour trying to create an impression of light without actually going for a literal shaft of light. It had been coming from different directions, and at different intensities, and by different techniques. She finally found one that sat well with her and quietly moved on. It’s so sublime, and it looks effortless, but I know she churned the brain cells on it.

While this was going on Misono created a curve, then adjusted it, then tilted her head to the side and moved it. She straightened her head and moved it again. Then moved it back. Then she did nothing for a whole minute, fingers poised on her trackball. Then she started creating again, adding dimension, and now she is blurring only parts of the edge. It’s — oh, there’s that word again: sublime.

I love that word. And it’s so hard to achieve. Beautiful things being created here this week.

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The Dwindling Relevance of MySpace

August 10, 2010

Since 2008, MySpace has been been making regular and large staffing cuts. In 2009, comScore reported that Facebook had twice the global traffic as MySpace.

Back in February of 2010, one of the CEOs quit, and it was seen as a really bad sign. Back in the heyday of MySpace, bands flocked to MySpace music in an effort to connect with their fans in a medium their fans were already using. Today, I know many people who only go on MySpace to find new music and tour dates from their favorite artists. The powers that be over at MySpace have been saying that they’re going to refocus according to that trend. They recently acquired iLike, a music service, and revamped their music section. However, they have been talking about moving away from social networking and focusing on entertainment for years without much follow-through, so time will tell. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are plenty of other places to get your music and if someone goes to MySpace for a music page, there’s nothing making them browse around the rest of the site.

In July 2010, MySpace started to beta test a cleaner (and more Facebook-like) profile template and bought out another social networking service: Threadbox. This seems to indicate that, no matter their claims to focus in music, they’re still trying to resuscitate a dying form of social media. They’re trying, but nobody’s optimistic and, more importantly, nobody is excited, which is what MySpace needs to get any popularity back.

Of course, who knows what might catch on, but it’s pretty well accepted at this point that unless you’re an indie band, a MySpace logo on your website looks antiquated and maybe even a little weird.

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“Sign my Nook, please.” (or: Awesome Things from RWA, Orlando – Part 2)

August 4, 2010

All hail this wonderful new booksigning happenstance. Please join me in a melifluous chorus of “Niiiiccccce!” in response to this new fabulous Best Fan Behavior:

Pamela Palmer signing the back of a fan's Nook at the RWA big benefit booksigning in Orlando, July 2010. (Photo: me)

“Sign my Nook, please.”

Fans didn’t just buy books to support literacy programs, I saw a quite a few people handing over their Nooks for authors to sign. The backs are easily removed, and replacements come in different colors. One reader said her plan was to hang signature-filled Nook-backs in rows on her wall.

I love it!

And what’s on my eReader? I have a Kindle app for my iPhone, and I am slowly reading Edward Rutherfurd’s massive tome, New York whenever I find myself with a few minutes without a book in hand (I still love paper!). But Max has a Nook, and I just transferred my HarperCollins eARC of Kathryn Caskie‘s The Duke’s Night of Sin to hers and plan to ensconce myself with it tomorrow afternoon. I am calling it “working” (I have the BEST job).

And in case you missed the previous post, Awesome Things, Part One lauded the incredible accomplishment of Julia Quinn hitting the RWA Hall of Fame. Let’s all take another moment to say “yea!”


photo courtesy of Barnes&

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