7 things I learned in June

Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.

1. Nobody knows how to sell books.

Will and I kicked off the month in New York, for Book Expo, where we met with my publisher and a few author friends. We talked about plans for my book and my friends’ books and the season’s big books and how to sell books.

At one point, I asked a friend what she’s found most effective in spreading the word about her books. This author has sold millions of copies, and I thought she’d have a quick, decisive answer. She didn’t. She said she didn’t have a clue what worked, and that anybody who said they did was making it up.

She was exaggerating a little, but our conversations over those few days made it clear that she’s not far off. Good marketing helps immensely (although opinions differ on what that looks like), but selling books is far from a science. Even in this age of Big Data, no one is exactly sure what works. I’m not sure if that’s comforting or terrifying.

2. You can pre-order a book from any indie bookstore.

I have learned so much about pre-orders since Reading People became available. Of course Amazon makes a huge deal about pre-orders, but readers can pre-order from pretty much anywhere new books are sold, like Barnes and Noble, or Book Depository, or your local indie.

I quizzed my friend Holland (of The Novel Neighbor) about it, and she said, yep, pre-ordering a not-yet-released book from an independent bookstore is pretty much exactly the same as ordering any book a store doesn’t have on the shelves at that moment (which is something I do all the time).

3. We’ve been doing this moving thing all wrong.

We moved four months ago, but it wasn’t till this week that we truly figured out where the furniture went, unpacked all the books, and finally hung some pictures. It wasn’t because we found ourselves with extra time on our hands; it was because we invited a hundred people to our house for a ticketed party last Friday night for the Popcast Live.

We were ready just in the nick of time—we hung photos the weekend before, the bookshelves were done a couple of days before, and we were seriously hanging the mirror over the mantel just hours before guests arrived.

But now the party’s over. (It was a BLAST.) The guests are all back home. And our house still looks great. (Not everything is 100% in that photo above, but we live here, you know?)

Now, Will and I have been asking ourselves all week why we didn’t think to throw a big party three months after we moved into every home we’ve lived in, because it sure was effective motivation for getting things done.

4. That happy collection of books is called “a color story.”

A design professional was in my house and she said, I love this little color story you made here. I didn’t know that’s what I’d done; that’s a phrase I’d heard tossed around but didn’t really get. Now I know it references the palette you’re working with in a certain space, and the feeling you want it to convey.

I hate choosing favorites, but when it comes to book colors, two stand out: I adore orange, and a certain range of ocean-y greenish-blue. I love them together, and wanted them to be neighbors on my shelves. Desired mood? Cheerfully serene.

5. To add a photo to Instagram stories…

Open the stories feature, and swipe up. I should have known how to add a photo I’d already taken to a story, but I didn’t. Jamie Golden gave me a mini-tutorial and I’m grateful.

6. To delete/move a whole bunch of emails in gmail at once…

Hold down the shift key, check the emails you want to delete or move, and proceed as usual.

7. Whole nutmeg does not look anything like I expected.

We ran out, and a combination of curiosity and just plain being cheap prodded me to get the new-to-me whole nutmeg instead of the usual ground stuff. It grinds up easy enough with a microplane, and it’s so pretty … but not at all what I expected it to look like!

What did you learn in June? Tell us all about it in comments!

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  1. Sarah R says:

    What I wouldn’t give to spend a week at your house reading through your bookshelves! 🙂 Have you read No One is Coming to Save Us? I picked it up at the library, then a bunch of holds came in, and returned it unread. I saw Sarah Jessica Parker picked it for her bookclub.

  2. I can’t believe I already knew something you didn’t know–#6. I feel so smart.

    Terrifying about the book thing since mine releases 10 days before yours. But maybe also a way I can let myself off the hook a bit? All I can do is all I can do. (But for the record, I think you’re rocking the marketing.)

    and I just made my own color story on my shelves this week. I’ve resisted for months because I like certain titles together but now I can’t stop staring and can’t believe how good it makes me feel. Serenity, check.

  3. Barb Smith says:

    Your “I hate choosing favorites” is great. The colour blending is new info. My question is: My book shelves are filled with very old good books, all various colours of brown. I also own a number of new books. Any suggestions on arranging them on a book shelf.
    Thank You
    Barb Smith

    • Anne says:

      Ah, many good and old books! Sounds like a promising start. I would be tempted to experiment with grouping all the brown ones together (maybe with some accents, like plants or vases or photos?), and likewise keeping the new books together. Good luck with your organizing project!

    • Victoria G says:

      Just another idea, if you don’t love the colors or jackets, you could always make new ones. I love to see a shelf styled with books all wrapped in brown kraft paper, for example. You could write the titles on the spines in white ink. White would be pretty, with all black lettering, or even with something fun like hot pink. Or navy paper with white… the possibilities are endless.

  4. Diana says:

    I spy the book I’m currently reading (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and two I’m picking up the library tomorrow (The Good Widow and Windfall) on your shelves! Yay for summer reading!

  5. Courtney says:

    I am getting ready to move and I also have a large collection of books yo move! I read that one way to save on your move is to ship your books via USPS because they have a reduced rate for media. Did you ship your books or load them up on the truck? If you shipped them, do you think it saved you any money?

  6. Aimee says:

    What I learned in June is that I never, ever want to climb Mt Everest or anything remotely close to it!! (after reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer)

    • Victoria says:

      You could try Touching the Void for another mountain climbing gone wrong story. Or The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which is sort of a mountain climbing spoof and hilarious.

    • Wyndi Labrecque says:

      That happened to me to this month!!! I finally braved reading that book after I met a man who lives in Nepal and leads climbing expeditions on a much smaller scale than Everest. I had been avoiding the book because I thought it might be too much for me. So glad I read it.

  7. Dana says:

    1. I learned that I love healthy eating and I miss it when in vacation.

    2. Wyoming is our most gorgeous state in the contiguous 48.

  8. Carrie says:

    It’s June and I’m staging my house to sell (so it can’t look like we live here!!). I colorized my book cases for both fiction and non-fiction- so labor intensive- I lots of book cases!
    I do know one way books sell- word of mouth. I’ve sold many books at my local indie and I don’t work there:)

  9. Victoria says:

    The inside of nutmeg always makes me uncomfortable. Something very disturbing to me about the patterns (like rotten avocados), but fresh nutmeg is best so I try not to look while grating!

  10. Jessie says:

    I learned to invest in getting help when I need it, to slow down, to listen to podcasts when I run. It’s been a great month! Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned and reminding me to share mine!

  11. Wyndi Labrecque says:

    I rarely envy things in other people’s houses. Until I saw those built-ins with the ladder, about the only thing I envied was a lovely screened in porch. I’m adding the bookcases to my list! I literally called my husband over to check them out 🙂

  12. Laura says:

    I never thought grating my own nutmeg was worth the trouble until a few years ago when my neighbor (who is originally from Jaimaica), gave me a few whole nutmegs from a family member’s tree back home. Eventually, I ran out of my ground nutmeg and was forced to experiment with the whole nutmeg and my microplane. The flavor of the freshly grated was so incredible! It helped me realize that I LOVE nutmeg and that I’ll never go back to using the pre-ground stuff! 🙂

  13. Ronda says:

    Speaking of nutmeg… My grandmother referred to mace as nutmeg’s lingerie. That really puzzled me as a child. It wasn’t until I was an adult and starting to bake on my own that I learned that mace is nutmeg’s lacey outer covering. Your bookshelves are beautiful!

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