Sonja Larsen’s debut memoir shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award

September 21, 2017

We are excited to share that Sonja Larsen’s debut memoir, Red Star Tattoo, is among the three finalists for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction!

Every year since 1991, the Edna Stabeler Award celebrates at least one creative non-fiction publication—with a Canadian locale and/or significance—by a Canadian writer of one or two books. The award is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, and is valued at $10,000.
Isabel B. Slone reviewed Larsen’s memoir in The Globe and Mail:
“Larsen’s story is engrossing, and at times unbelievable. She uses sweeping and poetic language to mask the deeply disturbing nature of the book . . . and the prose lopes along steadily, smoothing out all of the jagged edges left by the story itself. If the purpose of a memoir is for the author to come to terms with their own existence, then Red Star Tattoo is a catharsis.”
Red Star Tattoo, which took the writer eight years to write, was published by Random House Canada in 2016, and shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction in the same year. Larsen is represented by Page Two principal and Transatlantic Agency associate agent Trena White.
The winner of the Edna Staebler Award 2017 will be announced later this month. For more information about the award, please visit the Wilfrid Laurier website.
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What makes a book a bestseller

September 8, 2017

We’re often asked how books get onto bestseller lists. Do you need to sell a certain number of books? Is there a mysterious algorithm you need to crack? What is the secret of bestselling authors?

The answers are sort of; yes, but nobody knows what it is; and they don’t have a secret.

Before we dig a little deeper into the how, it’s important to determine if you even want your book to be bestseller. People publish books for all sorts of reasons. Some want the credibility that comes from being an author, others want to position themselves as thought leaders, and still others want their books to win awards.

If your primary goal is to write a book a book that’s a bestseller then you need to decide what bestseller list(s) you want to land on before you start planning your marketing. Do you want to crack the New York Times bestseller list or rank #1 in your category on Amazon? If your main goal is to be able to say you’re a bestselling author, not specifically a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, than making it onto a local list would call for a different strategy than making it onto a national list. Either way, a thoughtful, robust marketing sales and marketing plan is what’s going to drive your book sales.


Do you need to sell a certain number of books?

Bestseller lists are focused on fiction and non-fiction new releases, and high-profile bestseller lists such as the Globe & Mail and the New York Times compile their lists with weekly sales data from BookNet Canada and NPD BookScan (formerly Nielsen Bookscan) but then further curate them. And the formula they use for that final curation is a closely guarded secret.

Sales numbers are compiled over the course of a week and everyone wants to know how many books you have to sell to become a bestseller, but there truly is no magical number to aim for. We looked at BookNet Canada’s sales numbers for one week in August to get a general sense of numbers and the top 10 non-fiction books sold between 1,300 and 5,500 copies. These numbers vary widely depending on what books are released during a specific week, and what is popular in any given week.

Amazon Best Sellers lists their 100 most popular books based on sales and it’s updated hourly. This list is not limited to new releases or hardcover books; it reflects the books that are selling the most copies at any given time. But it still doesn’t divulge how many copies of each book are being sold. And some Amazon watchers have suggested that books published by Amazon’s own imprints seem to appear more often on the list; do Amazon’s algorithms favour their own books? It’s entirely possible but Amazon is as notoriously secretive about its ranking systems as the New York Times.

It’s a coup to chart in the top 100 of all books selling on Amazon, but you can also claim Amazon bestseller status by reaching the top in your category (e.g. Personal Finance). When we set up books for distribution on Amazon, we do careful keyword and category research, looking for categories that make sense for the book but are less populated as it increases your chances of reaching #1 in your category. 

Because sales numbers are compiled over a week, it’s smart to strategically make the week of your book launch count. Start by focusing on presales, because those will contribute to the overall number of your first week’s sales. And during your launch week if you’re running any event and you’re trying to crack one of the major print bestseller lists, be sure to partner with a bookseller whose sales numbers will contribute to your overall sales data. Note: books that you sell yourself or to groups will not count towards your overall sales figures. This is when you want to make the most of your big mouth list and be really clear about what you’re asking of your audience. Don’t be shy – if this is the week you want them to buy your book be really clear about that.


Is there a mysterious algorithm you need to crack?

With all these algorithms and curation and lack of a concrete sales number to aim for there is another question we’re asked – can you buy your way onto bestseller lists? There are companies such as ResultSource that promise to get your book onto bestseller lists, but their services cost into the six figures and they don’t guarantee sales, just that your book will make the bestseller list for at least one week.  

If you really want to get your book onto a specific list you have to ask yourself is it worth paying a company with a less-than-transparent reputation $150,000? Or would that money be better spent as part of your overall sales and marketing plan in a more organic way that would also contribute to your book being an ongoing, steady seller?


What is the secret of bestselling authors?

Bestselling authors don’t have any special secrets but they do know the power of a strong author platform.

Having an author platform doesn’t just mean having a Twitter or Instagram account, it also means using them strategically to share your #writerslife posts. Don’t just be active when your book is released, but in the lead-up to the release and on an ongoing basis as your book gains momentum. And your platform isn’t just your social media. Do you have a great email list you can market to? Or maybe you’re perfectly positioned to start a podcast in your area of expertise? Does your blog have an engaged following?

One of our clients, Michael Bungay Stanier, has sold over 200,000 copies of his book The Coaching Habit since it launched early in 2016, landing on the Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller lists along the way. He accomplished this through relentless, strategic marketing; he’s written a great article about his launch tactics that we recommend to anyone serious about selling books.

Very rarely in publishing is it a case of if you build it they will come. The odd book does “come out of nowhere” to become a runaway bestseller but why leave it to chance? Figure out how you define success for your book and then focus your marketing on making that happen. We’ll be delving deeper in the components of how a book becomes a bestseller throughout the fall so be sure to keep an eye on our blog or sign up for our email newsletter to receive our bestselling insight right to your inbox.

Whether you want to publish a bestseller, win an award, or boost your book sales we can help you position your book to align with what success means for you. Contact us to discover how.

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Geoff Dembicki wins the Dave Greber Award for social justice writing

September 8, 2017

Geoff Dembicki has won the $5000 2017 Dave Greber Freelance Writers Book Award for Social Justice Writing, for the chapter “Staying Alive in Paris,” from his book Are We Screwed? How a New Generation Is Fighting to Survive Climate Change. The book was published internationally in August by Bloomsbury US. Dembicki is represented by Page Two principal and Transatlantic Agency associate agent Trena White.

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Editing Indigenous Manuscripts

August 22, 2017

Last week our Project & Development Manager, Amanda Lewis, participated in the Editing Indigenous Manuscripts course at Humber College in Toronto. Here’s her recap of the week.

I’m feeling full, challenged, and reinvigorated as an editor after completing a weeklong course on Editing Indigenous Manuscripts. The course was offered alongside the Indigenous Editors Circle at Humber College, on the traditional territories of the Ojibwe Anishinabe people. I’m grateful to the organizers for the opportunity to participate.

We were fortunate to have the guidance of wonderful facilitators and organizers, and I learned so much from my fellow editors and writers on best practices when publishing Indigenous texts. Who has the right to tell Indigenous stories? What protocols do editors need to follow, and how do these differ across communities? What alternatives can we put in place as we move to Indigenize publishing? As a starting place on these questions and themes, please check out Greg Younging’s important Q&A from earlier this year, on traditional knowledge and copyright.

Writing and editing can frequently be a lonely endeavour. We’re cooped up in our homes, offices, and cafes, hammering out the words and thinking, “Does this matter? Does it suck? Will anyone care?” Coming together to form what felt like the beginning of a collective or alliance reduced the silo effect that also exists in publishing, whether academic vs trade or Toronto vs…everybody (love you, Toronto).

Our dad frequently told us, as we were heading off to school, “Do your best. Listen and learn.” He still says it, and it’s advice I hold dear. This week I listened, shared, and learned. I felt a softening toward myself and the editorial process in general, and a renewed sense of the responsibility we have as editors and publishers. I’ve definitely made mistakes in protocol when working with Indigenous writers over the years, even though I was trying my best at the time. This course was a reminder that we will make mistakes along the way, but the work is in learning from these mistakes. Have the courage to err. I’ll make mistakes again and hope that I will be able to recognize those errors, or have them pointed out to me, and ask for guidance. I’m now looking for ways to increase my knowledge, through listening and reading and mentorship (both receiving and providing).

Gregory Scofield, one of the facilitators, shared one of his favourite Cree words, which I respectfully offer here as a summation of the course’s meaning for me: pêyahtik, meaning to be careful, take care, or walk softly. I think of editing as a caretaking role. We have a responsibility to take care when working with writers on behalf of readers–care of the writer and their stories, care of the writer’s community, and care of ourselves in the process. That care might look like new ways of working, or longer timelines. It might look like being gentler with feedback. Or it might look like not publishing a text at all, if it’s problematic to do so. Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, have the courage to do things a little differently, even if that means potentially working outside mainstream models.

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Announcing our new client Alison Braithwaite

August 11, 2017

Alison BraithwaiteWe’re excited to announce our new client Alison Braithwaite!

Alison Braithwaite is a leadership professional and certified executive coach. Her new book, In Her Own Words: How to Move from Surviving to Thriving, shares stories of twenty extraordinary women who have created their own paths. From artists to politicians to educators, these women have risen above the conditions in their lives that encouraged them to play small, instead creating their best, most fulfilling lives—in a word, thriving.

Alison’s book demonstrates that much of the wisdom we need can exist right next door—through open conversations with ourselves and other women, we can find the inspiration and advice we need to fuel our next step. Alison draws the key lessons from each conversation, and distills them into questions for the reader to help in her own development, what Alison calls an “upward spiral of being and becoming.” These are stories for entrepreneurs and those who are ready to make a leap in their lives.

In Her Own Words: How to Move from Surviving to Thriving will be available in January 2018.

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