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Year of No SugarA Sourcebooks title, Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, by Eve O. Schaub, was launched in a whirlwind of publicity and appearances in April. Prepub press included a review in Library Journal, and stories in the Denver Post (which said her experience and her arguments “make a convincing case for closely inspecting package labels”), and in Newsday (which titled its article, “Help Eliminate Sugar in Your Kids’ Diets”). Pieces by Schaub appeared in Shape magazine and on the Everyday Health Website. A Year of No Sugar also got a Booklist review, and during the week of the April launch, Schaub—sometimes accompanied by her family—appeared on the Dr. Oz Show and Fox & Friends and was featured on the Huffington Post and Parents.com and in USA Today.

A Sourcebooks Landmark title, Memory Garden by Mary Rickert, was the “PW Pick of the Week” and received a lengthy starred review in late March.

Self-Published Book Rates “Important”

West Point LeadershipOn the 212th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, Forbes.com ran a review of Daniel Rice’s self-published West Point Leadership: Profiles of Courage, calling it “an important tome that is worthy of historians and anyone interested in the broad topic of leadership.”

Three Questions and Other Aids

If you’ve been publishing books for more than a few years, you’re probably familiar with Marcella Smith’s name, and you may be familiar with Smith herself (photo right). Formerly a member of the IBPA board and the long-time director of small press vendor relations at Barnes & Noble, she has been consulting through Marcella Smith Associates since 2011.

Smith, who began her career as a bookseller while getting her degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that for years, she has asked publishers and authors three questions to help them plan marketing of their books.

  1. What is the book/publishing program?
  2. Who is the customer?
  3. How will the customer find out about this book and/or publisher?

All of us in publishing can use these questions to determine “the course of action needed to bring a book to life and to find its audience,” Smith says. “Or, sometimes, to determine that a proposed book will not reach its intended audience.”

Refreshingly, Smith is an optimist about publishing. “I believe the opportunities for writers, publishers, and booksellers are greater than they have ever been before in my lifetime. The changes that have occurred since the advent of the paperback during World War II have made it possible for writers to have more readers and for publishers to sell more books.”

Now that books can be sold online and published digitally, she adds, “Both authors and publishers have greater flexibility in how and where they can deliver their message. The challenge today: finding ways to be efficient and effective in doing that.”

As Smith points out, “Nothing undermines a book’s chances more than poor execution: sloppy editing and proofing, or lack of attention to the interior design—page layout, typeface, leading—and in nonfiction that requires these elements, not including a table of contents, index, or glossary.” With a physical book, execution includes the color of the paper, the jacket, and front and back matter.

Smith’s advice is to find the core audience for the book first. These “ideal” readers “will be the most eager to talk with others about a book or reading experience they love—and we all know nothing sells books like word of mouth.” She calls Oprah Winfrey’s book club “the quintessential example” of the power of word-of-mouth, and explains that Oprah’s reach may have diminished, but community-sourced sharing via sites such as Goodreads “offers both readers and authors a way to exchange enthusiasms directly.”

Events in bookstores of any size are also important, she believes, because they can generate local media coverage in events listings even if not in feature or book review sections. “It’s good coverage for the store or the event space and for the author’s work,” she stresses.

As someone who started hand-selling books, Smith has a valuable reminder for anyone seeking a shortcut: “Unless—or until—an author becomes a brand name, writing, publishing, and bookselling remains a one-of-a-kind, one-at-a-time business.”

A Publicity Panoply

Several Chicago Review Press titles have gotten coverage recently.

  • Outsider Baseball: The Weird World of Hardball on the Fringe, 1876–1950, by Scott Simkus, was reviewed on Chicago radio station WGN 720 by Nick Digilio (who called it an “exhaustive” study of “offbeat teams such as those sponsored by religious cults and barnstormers who dressed as clowns”) and by the Tampa Tribune (which called it “a lively, vibrant narrative that even statistic-challenged fans can enjoy”).
  • Matthew Algeo, the author of Pedestrianism, had an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post in conjunction with major league baseball’s opening day.
  • Sitcom by Saul Austerlitz was recently reviewed by the New York Observer, the New Republic, the LA Review of Books, and the Washington Post, which wrote that Austerlitz “shows how these weekly, 30-minute programs have evolved to become an American art form.”
  • Ben Montgomery, author of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, was interviewed in April on Tampa, FL’s NPR affiliate, WUSF-FM.
  • Building Atlanta was reviewed in the April issue of Ebony, and Herman J. Russell, who wrote it with Bob Andelman, was interviewed this spring in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The book describes Russell’s rise in real estate construction and development despite segregation.
  •  Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters, an anthology compiled by Business Jet Traveler editor Jeff Burger, was recently reviewed in BJT, which also mentioned the Chicago Review Press paperback edition of Burger’s Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches, and Encounters, released in the United States last spring and now also available in England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

Linda Carlson writes for IBPA’s Independent magazine from Seattle. For the August 2014 issue, contact her at lindacarlson.com before June 10, 2014 if you have major media coups or foreign rights sales since March to report.

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