Connecting with Bookstore Book Clubs

One of the most powerful ways that a bookstore can compete with digital retailers is by providing something that the algorithm can’t – community. Bookstores host author talks, children’s storytime, and more. Many bookstores also host book clubs as a way to bring in new customers and to cultivate a vibrant atmosphere.  

Some publishers are already working with bookstore-based book clubs and learning about their needs, but we hope that more will take the time to cultivate relationships with indie bookstores through their book clubs.

These bookstore book clubs draw in new readers who become regular customers and active members of the community. Book clubs help readers find out about new genres and new authors that they may not have been previously exposed to, with picks curated by experienced readers. For example, Bella De Soriano joined City Lit’s Graphic Content book club in Chicago because she saw a flier while she was shopping. She wasn’t a big graphic novel or comic reader before but saw it as an opportunity to expand her reading horizons and get connected to some of her neighbors.

When indie bookstores have to compete with the ease and convenience of online retailers, being able to create in-person points of connection is crucial. According to City Lit owner Teresa Kirschbraun, the bookstore’s book club programming has resulted in not only friendships outside of the clubs, but an engagement!

In addition to fostering community, these book clubs help stores gain more loyal customers and build a more dynamic events calendar. Some of the other book clubs at City Lit include the Wilde Readers Book Club for LGBTQ lit, Found in Translation, Women Write Books, Weird and Wonderful Book Club for speculative fiction and fantasy, the Subject to Change Book Club featuring coming-of-age stories, and more. City Lit encourages book club members to purchase through their store by providing a discount to members who have an account with the store.

While many privately-run book clubs function as social gatherings as well as literary ones, book clubs that operate in bookstores are a different beast. Often, they have clear leaders and facilitators who are, in most cases, booksellers themselves. Since joining the Graphic Content book club, De Soriano has taken over some of the organizing of the club. This includes purchasing copies for the book club members and working with City Lit to schedule meeting dates.

Book club leaders think and talk about books for a living, so their relationship to book club picks looks a little different from “civilian” book clubs. They are more plugged into the wider publishing industry, with better understanding about trends that readers are enjoying and knowledge of new titles on the horizon.

Book club leaders at City Lit find titles using industry tools like book awards, as well as keeping tabs on releases from publishers whose work they already like. Kirschbraun explains, “For Found in Translation, [the leader] will review information from publishers of translated books, [like Open Letter Books and New Directions Publishing]. She also looks at other translations by favorite translators. Other booksellers rely on lists of books that have been longlisted or won awards.  Some review modern canon lists. For Women Write Books, the book club leader finds lists of diversity such as women of color or queer women authors.”

Additionally, bookseller-led book clubs tend not to use reading guides. Book club leaders at City Lit look for interviews with the author, book reviews, and find coverage from news media such as Bustle or Huffington Post.

Cosmo Bjorkenheim, who leads the NYC History Book Club at McNally Jackson’s Williambsurg location, agreed. “Mostly any outside material has been supplemental, like an exchange of letters between Robert Caro and Robert Moses right after the publication of The Power Broker, an open letter from Jane Jacobs to Michael Bloomberg from 2005, some maps, some movie clips… Bibliographical information is often useful, as are footnotes and indices. These are helpful for digging deeper into topics mentioned in a book but not elaborated upon.”

While Bjorkenheim does not currently work with any publishers directly for his book club, he hopes to do so for the next book club that he and his colleague will host, the Movie Adaptation Book Club. Interested publishers can email him at Cosmo@mcnallyjackson.com. “We plan on structuring this club a little more carefully, with screenings scheduled between meetings and some kind of thematic arc guiding the readings. There will be more of an emphasis on supplemental materials and something like a “lesson plan” for each meeting.”

Kirschbraun has made a point to tell her reps from publishers about the book clubs at City Lit so that the reps can suggest upcoming books that might suit the booksellers’ and the clubs’ interests.

Check out these other bookstores with robust bookclub programming:

We hope that more publishers will make an effort to get to know the book clubs that exist in the bookstores they work with. Talk to the leaders, learn what kinds of titles their members are most interested in and what sorts of supplemental information would make for a richer discussion.

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Ask a Podcaster: Books & Boba

Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fan bases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.

Name: Reera Yoo & Marvin Yuen

Show: Books & Boba

Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month, hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.

What should book publishers know about your audience?

Marvin: They are a diverse group of readers, and not necessarily all Asian-American. Our listeners range from Asians from across the diaspora (including the UK, Oceana, and expats) and non-Asian readers who are interested in different perspectives in the books they read. Those that follow us are generally interested in our focus on Asian authors, representation in media, and own-voices narratives.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?

Reera: We have a Goodreads list of books that our audience recommend us. We try our best to alternate genres and feature different representatives of the Asian diaspora experience.

Marvin: We make it pretty clear in our podcast opening that we focus on books written by Asian and Asian diaspora writers. We have been more flexible in terms of the genres we cover and have read both fiction and non-fiction novels, and everything from contemporary thrillers to regent-era historical fantasy.

What do you love best about your audience?

Reera: I love their passion and enthusiasm for Asian and Asian American literature. Many of our listeners are avid readers who have felt frustrated by the lack of diverse representation in publishing. Some are from countries where it is particularly difficult to find books by authors of color. So, it’s always wonderful to see their excitement in learning about upcoming and undiscovered books by Asian and Asian American authors.

Marvin: It’s always great to see new listeners who discover new books through our podcast, but I’m especially excited when our members engage with us on our Goodreads forums. Part of what we want to build at Books & Boba is a community of readers who are excited about the breadth of narratives coming from Asian authors.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers and for cultural commentary?

Reera: Reading is often a solitary activity. When you finish a book and feel your outlook on the world shift, it can be disappointing when you don’t have anyone to share your experience with. I think literature podcasts make the reading experience more intimate and less lonely. It’s like being in a book club with your friends, only you don’t have to go through the hassle of scheduling.

Marvin: I think podcasts in general are a great medium because listening can be a passive activity, so our listeners can listen to us discuss books while driving or working on something else, so you can be productive and learn stuff. Podcasts maximize efficiency!

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?

Reera: We often look through our list of forthcoming books by authors of Asian descent and search on NetGalley if they are available. We also consult [NetGalley newsletters] to see if there are any new books we might be interested in reading for our book club.

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?

Reera: We’re very excited by the surge of sci-fi and fantasy novels by marginalized authors. It’s fascinating to see how these authors are injecting their heritage and changing how we see race, gender, and sexuality in sci-fi and fantasy.

Marvin: Like Reera, I’m excited in the emergence of speculative fiction from Asian and other authors from traditionally marginalized communities. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the classics and family dramas about intergenerational issues and immigrant struggles, but seeing fantasy inspired by the Three Kingdoms era and science fiction that uses Eastern concepts as more than just window dressing will always bring a tear to my eye.

What podcasts are you listening to?

Reera: Since we are a part of the Potuck Podcast Collective, we listen to a lot of our fellow members’ podcasts, which include Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, They Call Us Bruce, Korean Drama Podcast, and KollabCast.

Some book-related podcasts we like to listen to are First Draft, Book Riot, Minorities in Publishing, and 88 Cups of Tea.

Marvin: In addition to producing several podcasts (including Books & Boba), I also listen to a lot of (too many really) podcasts! Speaking of book clubs, I follow the granddaddy of book club podcasts Sword & Laser, I also listen to pop culture discussion podcasts like Pop Rocket and Pop Culture Happy Hour, comedy podcasts like Hello from the Magic Tavern, and anything from the McElroy family, and of course our fellow podcasts from the Potluck Podcast Collective!

Follow Books & Boba on their website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads.

And be sure to check out our whole Ask a Podcaster series!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length

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Blockchain for Book Publishing

From cryptocurrency’s spectacular boom and crash of 2017-2018 to ads in the New York subway system for a regulated cryptocurrency exchange, cryptocurrency and blockchain are still overwhelming to most people. They seem to be somewhere between futurist Internet fantasies and the newest technological solutions for streamlining business and communication across many different sectors of our lives.

Blockchain is the underlying structure upon which cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) is built. Publishing has had its eye on blockchain for several years already. But, nevertheless, it is still more than a little mysterious or confusing for the industry.

So, we’ve put together a handy primer about what blockchain is and how it might affect the publishing industry, plus some resources for more further reading.

What is blockchain?

At its most basic, blockchain refers to a way of storing information or value without relying on a centralized authority. So for cryptocurrency, information about who has what amount of a given currency (like Bitcoin) is not stored at a central authority like a bank, but is available on a ledger that is accessible to anyone on the network. Transactions are bundled together into a block and then blocks are chained together in a way that cannot be broken or altered. In systems that rely on a central authority, that central authority could cook the books. But, because the information is decentralized and accessible to anyone on the network, it’s impossible for an individual or group to conceal or alter transactions. Blockchains can then tell anyone where an item or piece of information is and where it has been before. It’s a way of decentralizing data and authority, while making transactions more transparent.

Instead of checking in with a central authority, like a publishing house or a bank to arrange a transaction, the end parties can complete the transaction themselves. So, for example, I can pay my share of rent to my roommate directly using cryptocurrency instead of talking to the bank to take money out of my account and then having my bank talk to my roommate’s bank to deposit that money into their account. Once I tell the blockchain that I have given money to my roommate, that transaction enters the blockchain ledger so that it can never be changed.

Station F has a great introduction to blockchain on Medium.

What does blockchain have to do with publishing?

Blockchain can open new possibilities for the exchange of resources, goods, and data between individuals and companies. The whole publishing industry depends on many teams working in different departments and companies working together and speaking to one another, all of which could be made much easier by using blockchain. It represents a new model for storing data across multiple parties — From authors and agents, to publishers, to warehouses and distributors, all the way to retailers and end-audiences/readers.

Which parts of the publishing industry could be affected by blockchain?

Smart contracts & the supply chain

It comes as no surprise to anybody in the publishing industry that many moving parts working at many different companies have to work together to bring a book into the world. Authors, agents, publishers, production teams, distributors, warehouses, and more. Smart contracts, which use blockchain, could make this process more seamless. Smart contracts are pieces of code that are stored on a blockchain network. The code of the contract defines the terms of the contract that all parties have agreed to. If required conditions are met, actions are automatically executed in an “if, then” structure. For example, a smart contract might program a car to drive along a certain path, automatically stop at every stop light, pause at every stop sign, and go past green lights. Traditional contracts are more similar to having a physical person driving the car, making the decisions. Or, having a person driving the car on the phone with someone confirming that they should, in fact, stop at a red light. So, if a publisher and a printer have a smart contract, printing could be automatically triggered once the printer receives final proofs, instead of someone from the publisher emailing someone from the printer who will then get the ball rolling. This video and this article provide great intros to smart contracts.

Reselling digital titles

Blockchains allow an item (whether a bitcoin or an ebook) to be tracked wherever it goes because of the decentralized ledger that holds the record of where an item went and when. Blockchain could make it easier to resell ebooks while keeping a record of whose hands the title passed through and for how long. Scenarex is already experimenting with this through Bookchain.

Peer review

For academic publishers, clear peer review process is crucial to the publishing process. In 2018, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis Group, and Cambridge University Press teamed up with the pilot project, Blockchain for Peer Review. With this project, they are experimenting with using blockchains to make the peer review process more transparent, which they hope will ultimately lead to increased trust in the produced research.

Anti-piracy

Blockchains could allow publishers to keep tabs on all individual copies of a title, physical and digital. Blockchains keep track of all transactions, including buying, selling, and reselling. So, that means that it could be much easier to see when a copy has slipped into the wrong hands or is being distributed illegally if a publisher is keeping track of its titles using blockchain.

How much is hype?

As with any new and trendy technology, some of the interest is bound to be hype. And after the cryptocurrency crash in 2018, it might have seemed like the end of a trend.

But, rather than thinking that the blockchain fad is over, we think that we’re just past the Peak of Inflated Expectations on the hype cycle.

Heavy hitters are putting resources into developing long-term strategies for cryptocurrency and blockchain (see the Blockchain Center from the NYC Economic Development Corp.). Publishing industry groups are incorporating blockchain into scope of interest. For example, BISG has hosted multiple events about blockchain and Digital Book World has an award for Best Use of Blockchain in Publishing Technology.

So while it remains to be seen exactly how blockchain will change the publishing industry, it seems clear that enough corners of the market – publishing and beyond – are investing time and energy into thinking about how blockchain could solve some of their recurring problems.

Who is already using blockchain?

Read all about publishing’s early blockchain adopters here.

  • Publica: Publishing platform using blockchain and cryptocurrency technology to innovate in how books are funded, distributed, bought, and read. Announced partnership with Morgan James in Aug. 2018.
  • po.et: Open, universal ledger that records immutable and timestamped information about your creative content and uses open protocols designed for interoperability with current industry standards in media and publishing.
  • Authorship: Platform to provide readers, writers, translators and publishers with a single platform to offer and avail each other’s services. Uses site-specific tokens to conduct transactions, which can then be converted to Ethereum (a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin).
  • Scenarex: Bookchain project allows authors and publishers to publish and distribute ebooks using blockchain.
  • wespr: Ethereum-based platform that helps distribution of content between artists and their audience.
  • Blockchain for Peer Review: Collaboration between Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis Group, and Cambridge University Press to investigate using blockchain to make peer review more transparent and secure.

Further reading

The Promises and Perils of Blockchain Technology in Publishing

Blockchain: The Ultimate Resource Guide for Publishers

Blockchain for Books: What Indie Authors Need to Know

And, subscribe to NetGalley Insights for more coverage on how new tools & technologies are changing the publishing industry!

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The Importance of Publisher Podcasting with Candlewick Press Presents

For Candlewick Press’s 25th anniversary, they decided to make a podcast that gave listeners a peek behind the curtain of the house that gave them Judy Moody, Because of Winn-Dixie, Where’s Waldo? and more. Candlewick Press Presents gained thousands of listeners during its limited run in 2017, and it’s still getting plays from industry hopefuls as well as book lovers.

In this guest post, Ally Russell from Candlewick Press describes how a traditional publisher got into the podcasting game and how it benefited from connecting with its audience in a new way.

A Learning Experience

Publishing is a fairly small and exclusive community, and many people want to know how others broke into the industry. Some readers just want an answer to a simpler but equally complicated question: How are books made? Giving people insight into the journeys of successful book creators and providing them with details on the publication of particular books gives them tools to use on their own publishing paths and a deeper appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes.

One of the most exciting pieces of information we’ve come across since the release of Candlewick Press Presents is that our podcast has been used in college classrooms as a teaching tool. At least two college instructors have required their students to listen to episodes of the show to gain a better understanding of the book publication process. We’ve always aimed to help educators use our books in the classroom, so having the podcast used as a supplementary teaching material was a huge measure of success for Candlewick.

We use the Candlewick podcast to give our readers insight and entertainment. We tell new stories — stories that wouldn’t work in a traditional book format. It’s true that the Internet has forced publishers to adapt and find new ways of putting books into the hands of readers, but it has also allowed us to broadcast stories into the heads and hearts of millions of listeners.

We’re still book people, but now we’re also in the business of oral storytelling.

Initially, we weren’t sure if our readers would be receptive to a different kind of storytelling from Candlewick Press. However, the publishing industry has had to adapt to the digital age, and reaching readers beyond bookstores is something that we feel passionately about. So we dipped our metaphorical toes into the world of podcasting. We could only hope that our listeners would enjoy the stories from behind the scenes as much as they enjoy reading the stories printed on the pages.

We’re book people. We spend our days looking closely at text and illustrations, but we had to learn to listen closely to audio recordings to eliminate extraneous noises (which were almost always children from the daycare next door pattering their tiny hands on our windows during their afternoon walks). We know how to produce and market beautiful books, but we had to learn how to present and promote the creators of those books. We know how to tell stories on paper, but we had to figure out how to tell them in a podcast.

We spent months completing logistical work: Choosing a podcast name, purchasing a domain name, designing a logo, and testing recording equipment in our “studio” (which is really just a small conference room named after one of our most beloved book characters, Maisy).

Creating and Launching Candlewick Press Presents

For the launch of the podcast, we had to curate a list of locals from our roster of brilliant talent who would be willing to help us on our journey into the world of nonfiction audio storytelling. The task was particularly difficult because we wanted to choose authors and illustrators who represent the broad spectrum of books we publish. We brought in picture book illustrators Ekua Holmes and Scott Magoon and wordless picture book storytellers Aaron Becker and Ethan and Vita Murrow. We included board book and interactive activity book creator Jannie Ho and middle-grade fiction author Teresa Flavin. We also invited nonfiction storyteller Martin W. Sandler as well as two creators who are skilled at spinning tales of both fiction and nonfiction for various ages, author/illustrator Annette LeBlanc Cate and author/poet Lesléa Newman. Annie Cardi and anthology editors Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant covered YA books. Finally, we rounded out the list with picture book creator Matt Tavares and YA author M. T. Anderson, who have been publishing with Candlewick Press for almost as long as our doors have been open.

In May 2017, after months of research, interviewing, and editing, Candlewick Press Presents launched! The podcast aired weekly between June 8 and August 31. The show was available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. During its first week, the podcast picked up almost 500  downloads. Within its first month, almost 2,000 downloads. As the weeks went on and with each new episode, the program gained steam.

Within six months of airing, our podcast was picked up by Spotify. At the time, Spotify was relatively selective about their podcast content, so it was an honor to be included in their offering of shows. Red Tricycle’s website — which has 1 million unique visitors per month — named Candlewick Press Presents one of 5 Cool Podcasts to Try on Your Next Road Trip. In addition to other media outlets taking notice of our show, we learned that our podcast was being listened to all over the world, including in Australia, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, Japan, and Argentina.

The biggest hurdle for any podcast is acquiring ratings and reviews, and we haven’t been able to gauge the success of the show based on those. However, we know it has been a success because we’ve managed to hit 10k downloads in just over one year, even with an irregular, somewhat unpredictable schedule in 2018.

Value of Candlewick Press Presents

Here’s why we think readers will continue to seek out and listen to Candlewick Press Presents:

Behind-the-Scenes Peeks at Candlewick Press:

Isn’t it every reader’s dream to see where and how their favorite books were created? We’ve had local readers stop by our office and ask for a tour. There’s a reason that some of our most popular social media posts are photos that feature our office and staff: readers want to know! Candlewick Press Presents throws back the curtain and gives readers a glimpse into the world of publishing. The show is recorded right in our office in Somerville, MA, and it invites readers to join the experience that Candlewick employees and book creators are part of every day.

Background Information on Celebrated Authors and Illustrators:

Many of the guests on Candlewick Press Presents have been interviewed by other media outlets, but what makes the Candlewick podcast so engaging is the wealth of background information that we’re able to collect about our authors and illustrators and the publishing process of each book. We thread each discussion with funny anecdotes about the guests and interesting facts about the publication of certain books — information that only our staff could provide. Without background information from editors, book designers, and publicists, our listeners wouldn’t know about Scott Magoon’s impeccable singing voice or the story behind M. T. Anderson’s first manuscript.

Ally Russell is the consumer outreach specialist at Candlewick Press. She works to develop long-lasting, impactful relationships with organizations, and connect with consumers. She is the host of Candlewick Press Presents.

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Technology Confidential with BISG

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, we attended BISG’s Technology Confidential program. The panel included Rod Elder of Virtusales, David Hetherington of knkPublishing, George Logan of Klopotek, and Rob Stevens of Firebrand Technologies. Of course, we’re happy for any opportunity to cheer on our colleagues from Firebrand, but we were also there to hear from other panelists and attendees across the industry who are focused on using technology to help publishers get their books into as many hands as possible.

Virtusales, knk, Klopotek, and Firebrand all provide software to help publishers manage multiple aspects of the publishing process from title management to ONIX delivery to rights across multiple divisions and throughout a title’s lifecycle.

The panelists talked about the perils of customization, challenges of changing publishers’ workflows and implementing new technologies, and the importance of clearly-defined strategies at all levels of a company.

Configuration, not customization

The panelists lamented the challenges of leaning too heavily on customizations. While at first it might seem like customization can streamline workflow and tailor software to the unique needs of a specific publisher, all of the tech experts on the panel cautioned against it. The panelists uniformly recommended configuring software instead of customizing. Configuration keeps the basic structure of a software while shaping it to the style specifications and some of the unique needs of an individual company. Customizing requires new code whereas configuring does not.

Customization can make it more difficult for the software to communicate with other softwares, and can make system updates more difficult, resulting in patched solutions upon patched solutions. David Hetherington noted that heading down a road of customization is a road that will ultimately be longer, harder, and more expensive.

This is why publishing-specific software are so important. Rod Elder of Virtusales acknowledged that publishers have unique needs compared to businesses in other industries. The solution is to use publisher-specific software rather than customizing software that is meant for a different industry to make it work for publishing. Publishing-specific software can be specific enough for the unique needs of book publishers so as not to require huge amounts of configuration, but still flexible enough from a UI perspective to fit the quirks of an individual house.  

Consider the costs

David Hetherington gave the audience an acronym for thinking about workflow and technology updates: TCO – Total Cost of Ownership. It forces you to ask: What is the cost of doing things the way they’ve always been done, versus adopting a new technology to solve the problem?

Say a publisher workflow includes manually and frequently enter data in multiple databases for a single title. The publisher should consider both the literal cost of employee hours spent doing repetitive administrative work and keeping a big IT team to deal with bugs, plus the more abstract cost of an employee’s intellectual or creative energy that is left on the table when so many hours of their day are taken up with data entry. The TCO for this workflow might be high enough to necessitate a change in the status quo, either by internally streamlining or by introducing new software to make the process less manual and less repetitive.

Publishers tend to think about implementing new technologies only in terms of the cost of the new software and the time it takes to integrate it into daily operations. But the panelists reminded the audience that there are real costs to consider in these calculations related to maintaining the status quo.

Articulate the “Why”

Rob Stevens of Firebrand reminded the audience how important it is to ask why you and your team do what you do. Why do you fill in that box? Why do you enter data in a specific place or at a specific time? Why does your team need that report? If the reason is “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” you might want to consider dropping that task from your to-do list, which we’re sure is already long enough!

Asking why a company needs certain pieces of data can also help technology solution providers determine the best way to help meet a company’s needs or solve a particular problem for them, and can even drive development on the technology solution provider’s end.

Clearly articulating the “why” can also help ease some of the growing pains of implementing new software and workflows. If all members of a team know why they are being asked to change their day-to-day operations, they are more likely to adopt the new tools and use them successfully. The success of new technologies in a publishing house largely depend on the enthusiastic adoption and experimentation by the people who are using them on a daily basis.


BISG works to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Its membership includes trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.

For more cross-industry knowledge and events, follow BISG on their website, where you can see all upcoming events. You can subscribe to their newsletter here.

And, keep up to date with industry news, trends, and best practices by subscribing to NetGalley Insights.

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How to Pitch: Kelly Gallucci, Executive Editor of Bookish.com

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of Bookish.com, where she oversees Bookish’s editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors like Colleen Hoover, Leigh Bardugo, V.E. Schwab, and Julie C. Dao.

As the editor of this popular site, she gets pitched a lot of books to consider for features, interviews, inclusion in lists, and the like. Below, she shares some tips about how to approach pitches, based on her experience receiving them.

Give us a sense of the volume of pitch emails you receive. How do these fit into your overall workflow and help you build your editorial calendar?

My inbox is my personal Everest. I’d estimate that I receive roughly 100 emails a day, give or take, though not all of those are pitches. There’s definitely an ebb and flow depending on the day of the week and the season of the year.

Our editorial calendar is first shaped by recurring features (such as our book club recommendations, monthly Bookish bingo, and our seasonal roundups). The next step is to fill in any features that our team wants to work on. While writing those in, we leave room for articles inspired by publicity pitches, such as interviews and author guest posts.

Sometimes books pitched to us will fit into features we’re already crafting (a romance book pitched while we’re writing a holiday romance listicle), or they’ll inspire features we want to work on in the future. I also like to leave room for author guest posts, where authors share a short essay or a list of book recommendations. This gives our readers more insight into the author and their work, and lets us profile their book more directly.

What are the most successful ways that people have contacted you with a pitch? What are pitfalls that might make a pitch less successful with you? Feel free to include specifics.

The best pitch emails are the ones where a publicist shares an idea for an author guest post or predicts the kind of content the book would be best suited for. This makes it easier to envision where the article would fit into our calendar.

As for pitfalls, the big one is pitching us for content we don’t feature. For example, I receive a lot of pitches asking for us to review a book, but we don’t do book reviews on Bookish. Similarly, I receive a lot of requests for interviews. Interviewing authors is one of my personal favorite parts of my job, but they can be tricky for our audience. You have to work twice as hard to motivate a reader to click into an interview with an author they’re unfamiliar with. If an author has a strong online community, we can tap into that. If not, I’ll often see if the author is available for a different type of feature instead. A lot of this depends on the author’s availability, but I always appreciate publicists who are willing to think outside of the box with me when it comes to how to feature books.

Describe the relationships you have built with publicists and authors who regularly pitch you. How have publicists been able to earn your ear and your trust?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many brilliant and talented publicists over the years. Their creativity and drive never cease to amaze me.

The ones I rely on most are the ones who take the time to truly understand Bookish. They read our articles. They know the content we do and do not cover. They pay attention to the genres we feature most frequently. Basically, they do their homework. As a result, their pitches are refined and reflective of the content that does well for Bookish. When I see an email from them in my inbox, I know the book they’re pitching will be a good fit for us.

I also always appreciate the publicists who ask questions, especially if we haven’t had the opportunity to work together for long. I’m always happy to hop on the phone or fire off an email that can explore in detail the kind of content we cover, what does and doesn’t perform well, who our audience is, and more. When I receive a pitch, I’m never just thinking about the book. I’m considering all of those other factors too.

When digging through your inbox, what kinds of subject lines catch your eye? What details are important right up front?

I think the best subject lines are concise and direct. In my inbox right now, there’s an email with the subject “Cover Reveal for Bookish.” That’s excellent. I know exactly what I’m clicking into, and it alerts me to the fact that this is a more time-sensitive email. Another one I’ve spotted is “February’s Most-Anticipated Read” followed by the book title and author name. I now know the book, the time frame, and the angle.

On the other hand, I see a lot of emails that try to offer too much information upfront. An example from my inbox at the moment would be “New Standalone Novel From NYT Bestselling Historical Fiction Author” and the rest of the subject (the book title, author’s name) are cut off. The lede is buried here, and at first glance all I really know is the genre.

How do you feel about follow-ups from publicists? Is there a timeframe that works well for you if they haven’t heard back? What is important to you in a follow-up from a publicist?

My inbox is a dragon and it hoards emails like they’re gold. Follow-ups often work really well for me because they help to bring the email back to the top of my inbox.

The ideal timing varies. I don’t mind if a publicist follows up on a time-sensitive email the following day. For general pitches, following up a week or even weeks later is helpful, particularly if the pub date is still a healthy distance away.

A longer time between follow-ups also means that there’s more potential for new information to have come out, and that’s something I’m always looking for in those emails. Has anything changed since the first pitch (news, reviews, blurbs, etc.)?

What is one pet peeve (or pet pleasure!) that you have about pitch emails?

My pet peeve is definitely when emails don’t contain enough information. It’s most helpful for me when the author, book title, genre, and pub date are as up-front and clear as possible.

I’ll also add, and this isn’t related to pitches, that it’s extremely helpful when authors list their publicist on their website. It’s one of the places we check if we’re looking to contact a publicist we haven’t worked with before, but most authors only list an agent.

As for pet pleasure, it’s always a joy to open an email where a publicist references projects we’ve worked on in the past, books I’ve enjoyed from them, and other personal touches. To be clear, I’m all for form emails. Publicists are juggling multiple books and authors, and I support anything that makes their lives a bit easier. But personal touches at the beginning of those emails are always just a nice thing to see during my day.

Follow Bookish on their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Introducing a New, Premier Level of Service: NetGalley Advanced

Today we are excited to announce the launch of NetGalley Advanced! This new, premier level of service is now available as an upgrade*, offering new reports to help publishers track activity within NetGalley, and new tools designed to reduce manual effort and time for staff.  With more insight and flexibility, NetGalley Advanced will help you analyze your data so you can make strategic decisions earlier and anticipate trends before your books go on sale.

All of the existing features in NetGalley will still be available, while NetGalley Advanced will continue our ongoing strategy of implementing new features to address publishers’ needs and goals. Take a look at the information below to see how NetGalley Advanced compares to what we’re now calling NetGalley Classic.

Join our webinar on January 30, at 1:00pm ET for a demo of the new features and to ask questions.

We look forward to continuing to help publishers of all sizes promote a wide variety of titles to early influencers, and continuing to grow and evolve to meet your needs.

Read the NetGalley Advanced press release here!

*NetGalley Advanced is currently available for publishers in North America, and will be made available to publishers in other territories at a later date.

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Case Study: The Kiss Quotient

How Berkley turned a debut novel into a smash hit using social influencer marketing

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Jessica Brock, Senior Publicist & Digital Media Strategist at Berkley about The Kiss Quotient.

Published in May 2018, this modern romance featuring a heroine with Aspergers has been both well-reviewed and enthusiastically embraced by readers. And, it even has a movie deal!

One place that The Kiss Quotient really resonated was on social media. BookTubers posted video reviews and Bookstagrammers placed it in aesthetically pleasing shots. Jessica knew that putting The Kiss Quotient into the hands of social media influencers was going to be an important part of building its buzz. And, she even used the campaign as an opportunity to build her network of social media influencers! Learn more about her strategy in the interview below.

Tell us about your strategy for getting influencers excited about The Kiss Quotient.

Immediately upon finishing The Kiss Quotient I knew it was going to be something special. The first step for me was determining how to shout “READ THIS BOOK!” to the widest audience possible. This story isn’t just for traditional romance readers and I wanted to make sure people knew that. The campaign began with a cover reveal and excerpt on Bustle, hitting a key, younger female demographic. The cover popped, Helen’s personal stake in the story intrigued readers, and the excitement began.

After that, my main goal was growing steady interest in the book among bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and bookish influencers. Providing early galleys and e-galleys was a big part of that, as well as continual coverage on Berkley Romance’s social media platforms. This is a perfect example of “Oh, I’ve seen that!” publicity awareness. In my outreach to influencers, I talked about The Kiss Quotient like I would with a friend, with delighted squeals, OMG’s, and BAE’s included. I also specifically asked that they “help me tell the world about this book” via Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook. I didn’t have a platform preference because I wanted to reach as many readers as possible. I do think that Bookstagram played a major part though as the cover is quite ‘grammable. On a visually driven platform, The Kiss Quotient stands out beautifully.

How do you build relationships with influencers as a publisher?

One of my main responsibilities at Berkley is communicating and cultivating relationships with media contacts and influencers, in particular those who focus on romance. Romance bloggers are the backbone of the online romancelandia community and I absolutely love working with them. I send out two curated monthly newsletters to romance-focused bloggers and media contacts, chat with people on Twitter and Facebook, and generally try to keep up with what folks are reading, because romance bloggers are ravenous readers. We do our best to get them galleys as early as possible with the hope they will read and love our books and ultimately share reviews around the release dates.

Instagram – @book_junkee

How did you let influencers know about The Kiss Quotient and how did you give them access to read it? What was your balance between proactive outreach and responding to requests?

I sent pre-approved NetGalley widgets to a large list of media contacts and influencers. [Widget invites accounted for 26% of all members with access on NetGalley, so this strategy was highly effective!]. I also sent out a number of print galleys in fun packaging (I love color coordinating!) that I hoped would encourage them to share images immediately on their social platforms, mainly Instagram as it is so visual. I knew the “Look how pretty” appreciation at the beginning would morph into the “Omg this book is amazing” attention as soon as they began reading and that they would share those thoughts on their social media as well.


Custom eblasts sent to NetGalley and BookishFirst members drew requests on NetGalley and previews on BookishFirst.

I also dedicated a lot of time to responding to requests for the book. There were numerous BookTubers and reviewers who requested The Kiss Quotient that I had never worked with before. Granting them access to the book and getting to know their channels and sites has been a great way to start successful working relationships with many of them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit of some light internet stalking! If someone posted about The Kiss Quotient on Instagram, I would check the comments to see if they were from other influencers that I could also approach for review or feature coverage and I did the same with Goodreads. Twitter searches also proved very useful as the title of this book is pretty unique so I could easily see who was talking about it without having to filter through a lot of non-book related posts.

Aside from working with social media influencers, what other strategies did you employ for The Kiss Quotient?

I secured a lot of mainstream media attention, including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Buzzfeed, which piqued other outlets’ interest in the book and Helen’s personal story. I highlighted The Kiss Quotient’s strengths, joined the excited conversations with early reviewers, and reached out to other authors whom I thought would love Helen’s book as much as I did. Support from fellow authors can make a significant difference in reader awareness and publicity opportunities.

Jessica is a Senior Publicist and Digital Media Strategist at Berkley who manages the romance social media accounts and works with authors like Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, Alexa Martin, Samantha Young, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more. A self-proclaimed Slytherpuffenclaw, she loves to read YA as well as romance and dark-and-twisty thrillers.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Check out the rest of our case studies here!

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Writing Outside Your Book

In the book marketing world, getting your name out there is crucial. If someone casually browsing for their next read recognizes your name, they’re far more likely to take a closer look, and hopefully purchase.

Since writing is your craft, one of the best ways to get your name noticed is to write. So, write! It’s natural to want to write exclusively about your book as a way to promote it, but you should also consider writing about topics related to your book. For example, if you write Civil War romances, pitch a column on a women’s cultural interest website about the hidden histories of women in the United States in the 19th century. You can access a wider audience than you could otherwise, and demonstrate your expertise about your chosen field of interest.

You can also write in more casual settings; like a blog or a newsletter. Many authors and cultural critics send out periodic newsletters that describe what they are reading, listening to, and thinking about. Newsletters and blogs are a way to stay top-of-mind for your audience, and to help your readers develop a more personal relationship with you and your work.

This kind of tactical writing can increase your visibility and the visibility of your titles in the marketplace. But, as with all kinds of marketing efforts, quality is more meaningful than quantity. First and foremost you should write and pitch content that you would be interested in reading, and the readership will follow.

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