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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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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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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Ask a Book Club: Anne Haag

Book clubs are full of passionate readers who go out and buy books throughout the year. They are always on the hunt for new titles to read, and are recommendation engines for the family and friends outside of the club. In Ask A Book Club, we help you better understand how book clubs find the books they read, and where they talk about books beyond their club. We look at individual book clubs to learn more about what they look for in a book and how groups of passionate readers come together to choose their titles.

Today, we’re talking to Anne Haag about her globe-trotting book club.

About the book club

A friend decided she wanted to start a book club in the model of her grandfather’s group, which meets monthly and reads a book focusing on a different country each time. So, she invited a few friends to join, and it webbed out from there. Quite a few of our members were born or raised in other countries. We have members from Indonesia, Spain, Canada, England, and Ireland, so we have a variety of international perspectives present at each meeting. There are about 10 of us, all in our mid-20s. We live in Chicago and meet once a month.

Reading scope

We try to read a book by an author from a different country each month. A lot of the books we read involve some kind of historical conflict or element tied to a certain place – for example, the slave trade’s impact on Ghana in Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, or religious fundamentalism as it manifests in Pakistan in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. By focusing on a different country each time, we are able to expand our understanding of global conflicts, and how they influence our world today. We do occasionally indulge in lighter works when we need a break. Last summer, for example, we read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

We read quite a few works in translation. We skew towards fiction, but have read nonfiction, like Caitlin Doughty’s exploration of death across different cultures, From Here to Eternity. Most of the titles we’ve read were published within the last 20 years. We try to stick to shorter books; usually around 200 pages. I am guilty of not finishing more than one book when it lost my interest. We read The Double by Jose Saramago, and quite a few others joined me in the “easily disinterested” ranks.   

Finding new titles

I always look for ideas in the New Yorker, specifically the short reviews they publish at the end of each issue’s featured book review. That has come up previously as a source others have used as well. In fact, two of us recommended Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada after reading about in the New Yorker. Book reviews in the New York Times are another common source, as well as Goodreads. Sometimes our ideas come from reading about current events and seeking out related literature, often just by Googling.

Nominating titles

Members bring up titles they’re interested in reading at the end of each meeting. Typically, there’s a title that stands out as interesting to the group as a whole, so we pick that one. If more than one sounds interesting, we typically just agree to read them in following months. We aren’t particularly organized – we have a group email thread, and that’s about it. Really, we don’t even keep a list of books we’ve read.

Recent reads

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Case Study: Chilly da Vinci

How NorthSouth Books used timely subject matter, modern visuals, and Read Now availability to give pre-publication buzz to the story of an inventive penguin

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Heather Lennon, managing director at NorthSouth Books.

Below, learn about how she used NetGalley to gather over 100 pre-publication reviews for Chilly da Vinci by Jarrett Rutland. Chilly da Vinci tells the story about a young penguin inventor, tapping into current trends in STEM education for young readers, as well as the maker movement, all with a modern and appealing visual style.

The market for children’s books is especially hot right now. What do you think is unique about this particular segment of the publishing industry, as it relates to marketing and publicity?

Picture book publishing is very interesting in that it’s a visual medium, art and story together. We highlight the illustrations and the story in every book. Right now, I think that is a huge positive as far as coverage in blogs, Instagram, online and in print review journals. For Chilly Da Vinci, Jarrett Rutland’s artwork is so fun and striking–it just pops off the page, so I think it’s very appealing to reviewers.

Where does NetGalley fit into the overall strategy and timeline for Chilly da Vinci?

NetGalley is very important to NorthSouth Books! We always offer our lead titles on NetGalley. We aim to offer them 3-6 months in advance of publication. It’s really helped us reach readers, grow our brand recognition, and amass reviews online.

Which segments of the NetGalley community were most important to you? How did you go about reaching them?

Asking who is most important is like asking my mom to name her favorite child! We love them all. I will say….librarians have been a big part of our publishing program forever. Booksellers are enormously important in the life of a book–we are small enough that we never take a book being in-store for granted. Bloggers, tweeters, instagrammers help us get out the word!  This is our world, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.

Chilly da Vinci is a Read Now title. Tell us why that was the right decision for making the title available widely to NetGalley members.

I don’t set a lot of hoops to jump through to get to our titles on Netgalley. I am thrilled that NetGalley members want to open the book. I truly believe, if you read our books, you will enjoy them, you will recommend them and review them. So Read Now is always my preference.

Most NetGalley members who clicked to read Chilly da Vinci listed the cover and the description as the reason for their interest. It comes as no surprise, given that the author is also the illustrator! Tell us about how you created compelling copy for the Title Details page.

It was important to everyone at NorthSouth that we convey that Chilly is a do-er, that this book would appeal to the maker movement. And that Chilly never gives up. And then in general, I think one of the most important things is clean, readable copy, especially online. It’s so basic, but it’s important to make sure that your info has uploaded correctly–not doubled or tripled or cut off in some weird way!

Tell us more about strategies you used to leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.

Every book has a tip sheet that is fed out online. The sales reps use it to sell the book, and it gets uploaded to Edelweiss–which lots of bookstore buyers use for their job. Whenever we upload one of our books on to NetGalley that is a sales bullet that’s fed out to the world.

How will NetGalley be incorporated into your post-pub strategy?

We will be following up with everyone who reviewed Chilly with  a pre-on-sale newsletter with activities and info about Jarrett Rutland’s events. The book launch will be held at an ice cream shop in Asheville on Saturday, Dec. 8. We hope that NetGalley members who loved the book will attend.

What is your top tip for publishers to use NetGalley to its full potential?

Download the reviews and keep those members in mind as you work on future books. It’s not just seeing what people think about this book, it’s being able to reach out to them for the next book as well.*

*NetGalley recommends using the Detailed Activity Report or the Feedback Report to see which NetGalley members are requesting, reading, and reviewing your titles.

Heather Lennon is the managing director of NorthSouth Books.

Chilly da Vinci goes on sale Dec. 4. You can preorder it here.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Ask a BookTuber: ProblemsofaBookNerd

BookTubers are enthusiastic readers who share their enthusiasm with their audience, which often range in the tens of thousands or more. They recommend new titles, post reviews,  unpack boxes of books, show off their bookshelves, participate in interactive reading challenges, and more. In our Ask a BookTuber series, we hear directly from these influencers about their platform of choice, their audiences, and the kinds of books they are most interested in reading for their channel. Plus, they tell us which BookTubers they are watching!

Name: Cece Ewing

Channel: ProblemsofaBookNerd

Subscribers: 31K

Cece is “23, super gay, and a lover of all things bookish.” She reviews all genres of books, but heavily promotes any and all LGBTQIA+ fiction. Her channel features reviews, recommendations, bookish songs, unboxings, fandom discussions, and the occasional vlog. Here’s a video where she describes herself through books that she loves and identifies with.

You can watch a video of her most anticipated LGBTQIA+ books of 2018, as well as a video full of LGBTQIA+ reading recommendations.

What do you love the most about your audience?

I love their support. No matter what I create, there is always a support base there. They rally me on when I’m unable to make as much content, when I make content that is unusual for my channel, and honestly whenever I post. [They] mainly support me through comments on videos, but their support isn’t limited to that. I have a lot of viewers who reach out through Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr to send me messages. Especially if I have posted on Twitter that a video has gone up recently, or that I might be delayed in posting, I get responses and direct messages that let me know people appreciate what I do. Sometimes I get video suggestions, or messages from people letting me know I should put my mental health first. But the comments on videos are where the bulk of information from my [YouTube] subscribers comes from.

There is a real loyalty that I never expected from the viewers of my channel, which is why I’m always motivated to come up with new ideas and read as often as I can. They support me, which makes me eager to create content for them in return.

What should book publishers know about your audience?

The majority of my viewers are between 18-35, despite the fact that I read and review mostly YA. They are eager to learn more about unusual and less publicized books, and especially about diverse releases. They want to be as knowledgeable as possible about which books contain what kind of representation. I can’t count the number of times that I have comments from people about how if they had known a main character was a person of color/queer/dealt with mental illness, they would have read a book so much sooner. Knowing these details is important for my audience; [it] helps to sell them on a book.

What do you think is unique about video as a medium and about YouTube as a platform for book lovers?

I think there is a certain energy when you can actually see a person who is excited or let down or angry about a book. I love reading written reviews, but I really appreciate the spontaneity and extra visual layer of YouTube as a reviewing platform. I think it showcases books in a new way, and as a person who has always loved to read, I adore the different ways readers adapt to sharing their passion.

Describe your tone as a BookTuber: What is it about that tone that resonates with your audience?

I attempt to be positive and uplifting in every video. I think that upbeat aspect of my content resonates with people because they feed off the energy that I put in. I am excited and I don’t hide it, and people appreciate that realness from the YouTubers they watch.

[But also], my tone is determined based on the content I am producing.  I think when it comes to books I keep a pretty standard, upbeat tone unless I am doing reviews for standalone books. There are book reviews I have done that are about more serious topics (I did a video reviewing The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas when it was originally released, and there is also my stand alone review of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour) and I think I am a bit more serious in those videos in order to better represent the tone of the [books themselves]. When I’m doing videos where I talk about books I didn’t like, or [sharing] unpopular opinions about books, I still try to be upbeat but it becomes a bit more sarcastic and teasing than in other videos…I never want those videos to feel like downers. [Also,] There are times when I am talking more specifically about my life or specific mental state (as in a recent video I did about my hair and how it affects how I see my sexuality).

I also think that genuine positivity is something that I have needed more and more from the content I have consumed in recent years, so I always want to be that positive voice that others might need as well. Plus, it helps that I am frequently talking to queer viewers about queer stories. So often queerness is turned into tragedy in popular media, so I view my place as a happy lesbian as being important for others to see– it is important for queer viewers to find stories about happy queer people.

Why is video the right platform for you?

Video captures my feelings better than any other medium. I have a degree in English, so there is always this assumption that I must be an effective writer, but I can never quite get across my feelings in writing as well as I do in a more visual medium. When I was a kid, I was a visual comedian. I am a visual learner. I just think that conveying emotion, for me, is largely linked to my physicality, which is why YouTube works more for me than any other medium.

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

I use a variety of sources, for sure. My anticipated releases almost always come from Goodreads lists and Barnes & Noble’s upcoming releases posts. Other books come largely from recommendations by other BookTubers, but also through announcements on Publishers Weekly and Twitter. My favorite places on Twitter for book recommendations are @LGBTQReads, @bookvvitch, @SaundraMitchell, @romweasleys, @sapphicsolace, @yabookscentral, @prideathon, @bbliophile, and through following lots of big name and indie publishers online. I keep up with release announcements as they come through publishers and authors.

When I pick which books I really want to talk about, though, it is mostly reliant on what I loved most or am most excited to read, while also being influenced by what I think my audience will want to know about. If there is a book I’m not particularly excited about, but it features some form of representation that is harder to find, I will work in ways to discuss that book because I want my viewers to have the easiest access possible to books they may be interested in.

What strategies do you use on NetGalley to find books to request?

I rely very heavily on searching through specific categories. My most searched category is, of course, the LGBTQIA section (pictured left), since that is what my channel’s primary focus is. But often books are not cross-referenced [with other] categories, so there are queer books listed in other places that I don’t find in that LGBTQIA category.* That’s usually when I search through the Teens & YA and, sometimes, the Literary Fiction sections. I will say that, often, digging through the literary fiction books leads me to discovering books I want to read that I had never heard of before. Requesting those books is something I do more sparingly, since I know less about them, but it has led to me finding a variety of books I never would have read otherwise. Beyond that, I sometimes find and request books through NetGalley after an author or another blogger lets me know that a book is available on the site.

 

*NetGalley recommends making sure that your titles are listed in two categories to increase visibility

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

I think there is definitely a trend next year that I’m thrilled about, and that is more f/f romances than I have ever seen through a publishing year. 2019 queer releases are looking incredible, varied, and full of stories and representation that I know my audience has been searching for. I have also been excited about what seems to be a growing number of short story collections and novellas. The changing landscape for format is really thrilling to me, and I am eager to see how that changes the types of stories we are seeing published.

Which BookTubers do you watch?

There are so many, oh wow. I think Adriana from perpetualpages is and has been doing incredible things with their channel. They are thoughtful and critical in equal measure, and always discuss books I was previously unaware of. BooksandLala has been doing creative stuff with her channel for years, and I think this year has been an amazing leap for her in that creativity. I’m constantly impressed by the content she comes up with. There is Monica from shemightbemonica, who is such an advocate and a positive voice within our community. I love Joseph from The Boy Who Cried Books, Nicole from WoolfsWhistle, Kristin from Super Space Chick, Joce from squibblesreads, and Marines from mynameismarines. I think they all do creative and fascinating things to promote books, and there is so much work and care put into all of their content.

 

Follow Cece on YouTube, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram.

Learn more about Booktube here and subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you never miss a post.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Ask a Librarian: Mandy Peterson

Putting your titles in the hands of librarians is an important part of any book’s success story. Librarians build collections for their library branch, pick titles for their own reading groups, and were the original comp-title recommendation engines before the age of algorithms. Librarians are book advocates in their community and beyond!

In our Ask A Librarian series, we ask librarians on NetGalley about what makes their community special, what they read, and how they stay up to date with the best new titles for their patrons.

Mandy Peterson, a Library Media Specialist at a high school library in Schuyler, Nebraska, fills us in about her work below:

Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services

Schuyler is a small town of about 6,300 in an area of Nebraska known for farming, ranching, and packing plants. Within the last fifteen years, our community has changed from mostly Caucasian rural folks to a vibrant mix of Hispanic immigrants, African and Middle Eastern refugees, and its original inhabitants. This rather sudden change has led to a community struggling to figure out who they are together. Since I work in the high school with around 650 of the area’s youth, my patrons range in age from 14-21 and speak a variety of languages. Our students are coming of age and finding their identity in a new home, in a new country, and within a community that is finding its own identity. It’s a very exciting time to serve them!

What resources or programs make your library unique?

I’m not sure how unique it is, but we have a Spanish section with both nonfiction and fiction materials. We also mark High Interest Low Ability books with a small black dot and shelve them with the rest of the library’s collection so students who struggle with language, ability, or desire to read can identify books that may serve their needs without being singled out. After a student survey, I spent the end of the school year reorganizing our fiction section by genre. Over 96% of our students voted for the change!

Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in?

Quick reads, no matter the level, are popular in my school. High school students are spread thin with homework, activities, and jobs. They want quality material without a bunch of extra. These are books we need more of. Often, our students like longer books but simply don’t have the time to finish them. Realistic fiction (gritty or romance), science fiction and fantasy, and mystery are the most commonly read genres right now, but every book has its reader. I’m completely open to recommendations!

What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print?

Although our district provides an iPad for school use to every teacher and student at the high school, our eBook check out is not very high. Students have mentioned that they prefer physical books. Reading on paper helps them retain the information and shows their teachers that they aren’t messing around when they should be working. 98% of my circulation is physical books.

What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection?

NetGalley is one of the primary resources. I also follow Epic Reads and many publishers on my library’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Amazon’s Coming Soon section has saved me a few times from missing sequels or new releases from authors my patrons love.

What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley?

I head straight for the Teens and YA section, sort by Publishing date, and start looking. If I see books my patrons will like (for example, from an established author), I screenshot the cover and release date and drop it into a folder on my desktop to remind myself to order the book later. If it’s an author I haven’t heard of or an author I love in particular, I will request books that interest me. About 90% of the time, we wind up purchasing those for our library. We love supporting independent authors that we have found through NetGalley, too!

What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books? Cover? Title? Description?

I am a cover junkie. My students are, too. (Someone please update covers for classics!) It’s very difficult for me to circulate a book without an appealing, genre-appropriate cover. Descriptions are important too. Most patrons look on the back of the book for descriptions, not the inside flap. I see a lot of books put down if the description isn’t on the back.

If you’re looking for ways to engage librarians like Mandy on NetGalley, remember to auto-approve all members of the ALA, and include your titles in the NetGalley newsletter: Librarian Edition. And, be sure your cover art is eye-catching! Check out our Cover Love winners for inspiration. You can nominate your own title for Cover Love here. The promotion is free if your title is selected. And, check out the rest of our Ask a Librarian series!

How have you successfully engaged librarians? Email insights@netgalley.com with your story. We look forward to featuring your successes on future Insights posts.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Finding and Keeping Mentors in Publishing

In most industries, who you know can sometimes be as important as what you know. Publishing is no different. The right mentor has walked the path you are now trying to walk, and can give you a vision of what publishing looks like as a long-term career. Mentors are important for any career path, publishing included. But sometimes it can be challenging to know where to look for mentors, and how to build a mentoring relationship.

Here are some of the strategies that have worked for members of the NetGalley team, and tips to find and keep mentors in the book world.

Cast a wide net

There is great opportunity in the publishing industry to find mentors through advanced degrees or other programs focused on book publishing, including internships. While these may give you access to potential mentors, they aren’t the only place to find professional connections. Even if you don’t have the institutional support of a publishing school or an internship, you can still make inroads in the industry and create meaningful mentoring relationships.

You might find professional mentors even when you aren’t looking for them. Israel Carberry, NetGalley’s Engineering Manager, found two of his professional mentors through their shared interests in civic engagement: One while volunteering at a food bank, another while volunteering at his local chamber of commerce. As their friendships organically grew through shared interests and values, he began to ask for some professional advice, slowly building a mentoring relationship.

Tell friends and acquaintances that you are looking to break into the industry and ask if they know anyone who would be willing to sit down and chat with you informally to share information about their experience. Friends of friends, parents of friends, neighbors, and other members of your community are great resources. And even if you don’t know anyone in your circle who is in publishing, see if you can build relationships with individuals who work in fields adjacent to publishing. For example, a journalist likely knows publicists who pitch them books for review.

Once you have been connected to a potential mentor, ask them to join you for a cup of coffee so that you can learn more about the industry or to get their advice on job hunting. Make sure to do some research before you meet so that you can ask informed and specific questions.

Follow up after an informational interview to thank the person for their time. This helps the conversation continue, and demonstrates that you absorbed the insights they were able to share with you. Find them on LinkedIn, as well, so that you are added to their professional network.

Be Proactive

No matter where you find professional contacts, it still takes initiative and follow-through to turn these contacts into mentors. NetGalley’s Sales Assistant Katie Versluis recalls how she met her mentor, Allie.

“She was doing a presentation in my class about book marketing…Being an eager student I hung on her every word. She’s only a few years older than I, but she had already accomplished so much and was working as one half of the marketing department of a feminist press in Toronto that I admired greatly. During the question period, I asked her if they took on interns, and she said, ‘It’s possible…’ but [that] they weren’t planning to in the near future. I, of course, took that as a ‘Heck yes we are, please apply,’ so I drafted an application email to her before she’d even left the building.”

Katie’s application was successful. While the internship did not transform into job afterward, her relationship with Allie did help her find a job. The two of them stayed in touch after the internship ended, and Allie tagged Katie in a Facebook post for the Sales Assistant role at NetGalley. “She said, ‘Apply!!’ and I said, ‘NetGalley was my baby! I’m all over this!’ And the rest was history.”

Katie gained access to publishing industry professionals through her degree, but she made the most out of that access by proactively reaching out to gain an internship, and then by staying in touch after the internship ended.

Keep in Touch

Most of us are only actively in touch with our networks of colleagues, friends, and mentors when we are in transition–looking for a new job, asking for references and letters of recommendation, thinking about a career change. We might reach out to our mentors to ask for advice or to see if they know of any interesting job opportunities.

However, it’s crucial to stay in touch with your mentors even when you are not actively asking for advice. Mentorship is about relationships and those relationships can grow and change with time. When NetGalley’s Communications Assistant, Nina Berman, was making the switch from radio to book publishing, a friend connected her with Sarah Younger, a literary agent who helped Nina edit and format her résumé and cover letters. This ultimately helped her land a job at NetGalley. Several months after Nina started at NetGalley, the two met to catch up and Sarah mentioned that many of her authors use NetGalley, but perhaps not to its fullest potential. Nina was happy to return a favor and sent along some resources and best-practice materials about NetGalley for Sarah and her authors. These relationships can often be mutually beneficial in surprising ways. Stay tuned for a guest post from Sarah in the fall.

Some ways to stay in touch: If you had an informational interview with someone during the course of a job hunt, follow up with them once you have found that job. Let them know that their advice was useful and that you are grateful for their support. If you see their name pop up on Publishers Lunch, drop a line! If their imprint is putting out a book that you think looks terrific, send a quick congratulatory note. It keeps the conversation going and can help transform a one-time meeting into a relationship.

Publishing can be a daunting industry to break into, full of ambitious and talented people, but it is a friendly one. People want to help others succeed!

How have you found mentors in publishing? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to feature your advice and experiences in a future Insights post.

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Ask a Podcaster: Bad on Paper

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 fanbases 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: Becca Freeman

Show: Bad on Paper

Bad on Paper is a weekly podcast hosted by 30-something YA enthusiasts Grace Atwood, also known for her popular lifestyle blog The Stripe, and Becca Freeman. Every other week, Grace & Becca host a book club with a new book they promise you won’t be able to put down. In between, they share their best tips for “adulting;” helping you do everything from finding the right career to the perfect face serum.

What do you love best about your audience? The best part about our audience is how interactive they are with both us and other listeners. On weeks we don’t talk about books, each episode is centered around a topic and listeners write in specific questions to be answered. We love how our listeners actually shape the content of our episodes to make sure the topic matter is relevant to them. In addition, we have an amazing Facebook community where our readers can share reactions to our book club picks, ask questions, and give and receive book recs. It really feels like we’ve built something that is a two-way dialog and not just a one-way conversation where we talk at our audience.

What should book publishers know about your audience? Our audience is made up of incredibly voracious readers. While our podcast started covering just YA books, we’ve recently expanded to include adult fiction titles, too, based on demand from our audience. We’ve also been really flattered by how many 20- or 30-something YA readers who have come to us saying that they were previously embarrassed by reading YA, but are excited to have found a like-minded community to discuss with.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers/cultural commentary? I think what’s really interesting is that we’re able to take the book club model and bring it to a much larger audience. Personally, I’ve been a member of many book clubs but oftentimes they’ve fizzled out because of hectic schedules. We’re a book club that you can dip in and out of or consume based on your schedule. It’s convenient to have your book club on your phone to partake in when it makes sense for you.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast? Grace and I are both very avid readers, so we’re constantly reading and flagging books that could make good podcast picks as we go. In addition, as our audience has started to understand our reading tastes, they’re often giving us recommendations of books we’d love or they think should be on the podcast.

Recently, we crowdsourced our first listener-pick book on Instagram via an Instagram story poll. Our audience picked To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. We thought it was fun to turn the picking power over to our listeners and talk about a book they were already passionate about!

Lastly, I’m a huge user of Goodreads, and am always cruising the New Releases and Most Read sections for inspiration and to keep of the pulse on what’s new and popular.

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request? Oftentimes, I’ll search for books I hear about on Instagram, from bloggers, or find on Goodreads. Of course, sometimes the odd cover art will attract me, and I’ll request that too!

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by? I’m really excited that we’re starting to see more smart female protagonists in YA. A lot of books center around a girl who doesn’t know she’s smart or pretty or has any worth until a boy tells her. It’s really exciting to see more YA titles with more feminist-friendly heroines.

What podcasts are you listening to? I’m obsessed with Who? Weekly for my weekly celebrity gossip fix, Forever35 for self care talk and a surprising amount of author interviews, and Second Life for interviews with amazingly accomplished women about their career trajectories. I also check in with Call Your Girlfriend, That’s So Retrograde, and Fat Mascara when an episode topic intrigues me!

You can follow Bad on Paper on Facebook, Instagram, or on their website. You can subscribe to their podcast on iTunes or contact them via email at badonpaperpodcast@gmail.com.

For more information on finding podcasters to pitch, check out this recent article.

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Ask a Librarian: Amanda Buschmann

Putting your titles in the hands of librarians is an important part of any book’s success story. Librarians build collections for their library branch, pick titles for their own reading groups, and were the original comp-title recommendation engines before the age of algorithms. Librarians are book advocates in their community and beyond!

In our Ask A Librarian series, we ask librarians on NetGalley about what makes their community special, what they read, and how they stay up to date with the best new titles for their patrons.

Amanda Buschmann, an elementary school librarian in Houston, shares some insights about her community below:

Tell us about your library’s community, and the patrons who use your services: I work in a Title I district in a Title I elementary school, where I see approximately 850+ students on a rotating basis. The school services grades one through five, and the school is a bilingual school with a majority of Hispanic students.

What resources or programs make your library unique? We were one of the first libraries to routinely use a 3D printer and a Makerspace, and we are also the only school with a Gadget Girls club – a club designed solely for girls interested in STEM to explore science and tech in a stress-free environment. Our collection reflects these practices; we have a STEM resource section is that very popular, with a mixture of non-fiction and fiction books geared towards STEM.

Based on what they’re checking out, what kinds of books are your readers most interested in? Graphic novels are the most popular, including graphic novel versions of non-fiction subjects like electricity and biographies. Graphic novels are an effective way to grab a student’s attention and then supplement with additional texts.

What percentage of your patrons check out digital books versus print? Nearly all of my students use print resources, as very few have tablets of their own.

What resources do you use to find new books to recommend, or to add to your library’s collection? The largest and most effective resource I use is other librarians. I am part of a few different Facebook groups geared towards Future Ready and elementary librarians, and they are beyond helpful. So many fabulous ideas! I also love to use School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews.

What’s your strategy for finding new books on NetGalley? Firstly, I peruse the Most Requested titles to see if there is anything pressing that I am missing out on. Then, I scroll through the offerings and look for titles and covers that catch my eye.

What catches your eye when you are on the hunt for new books? Cover? Title? Description? I will admit I am a sucker for a beautiful cover, and lately books have been coming out with gorgeous covers. A strong, not overly lengthy title is also paramount to catching my attention. Then I delve into the description.

If you’re looking for ways to engage librarians like Amanda on NetGalley, remember to auto-approve all members of the ALA, and include your titles in the NetGalley newsletter: Librarian Edition. And, be sure your cover art is eye-catching! Check out our Cover Love winners for inspiration. You can nominate your own title for Cover Love here. The promotion is free if your title is selected. And, check out the rest of our Ask a Librarian series!

How have you successfully engaged librarians? Email insights@netgalley.com with your story. We look forward to featuring your successes on future Insights posts.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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