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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Lessons from Book Club Gatekeepers

In February, the Publishers Advertising and Marketing Association (PAMA) held an event entitled “Lunch with the BookClub Gatekeepers.” We were excited to attend and hear about how some of the most influential decision-makers in the world of book clubs make their selections and keep their communities thriving.

Maddie Caldwell, founder and host of WORD Bookstore’s Romance Book Group, Leigh Newman, books editor at O: The Oprah Magazine, Glory Edim, founder of Well Read Black Girl, and Karah Preiss, co-founder of Belletrist gave us an inside look at the resources they use to find new titles, and how they connect with their communities of engaged readers. Here is some of what we learned!

Word of mouth recommendations are still key

The panelists all agreed that personal recommendations were one of the core ways that they determined which new titles would be most appropriate for their book clubs. Ms. Newman mentioned how much she appreciates publicists who recommend books that aren’t necessarily among their own authors,  but which they think would be good candidates for the Oprah Book Club (OBC). Even though these publicists aren’t pushing their own titles, they are demonstrating that they care about the overall success of the OBC and know what kinds of books Ms. Newman is looking for. Ms. Caldwell finds a lot of recommendations from romance authors and readers on Twitter, where fans of the genre are active and recommend generously. These gatekeepers are still fundamentally looking for the kinds of books with grassroots buzz; the books that people can’t stop talking about.

Instagram is the platform of choice for book-loving millennial influencers

As founders of digitally-based book clubs with predominantly millennial audiences, both Ms. Edim and Ms. Preiss highlighted Instagram as a crucial resource for helping them keep abreast of new titles and new trends. It is one of the principle places that they find book recommendations. They follow bookstores, authors, and trendsetters both inside and outside of the book industry. In addition to using Instagram to discover new titles or authors to feature in their book clubs, they use Instagram as a community hub for their own book clubs. Well Read Black Girl and Belletrist, with 78K and 174K followers respectively, are very active on Instagram. Belletrist uses Instagram to keep its members engaged with the club and with each other, often by posting questions that followers will answer in the comments. A recent post asking  “What are you reading?” received 350 comments and over 6.5K likes. You can check out some of our favorite book industry Instagram accounts to follow here!

Enthusiastic authors make for successful book club picks

One of the most important factors for a successful partnership between a book club and a book is the willingness of an author to participate. Authors who provide interviews, or write content that is directly or indirectly related to their book are creating supplementary content that helps keep book club members engaged with their community as they read. For example, when Wild was an OBC pick, Ms. Newman interviewed Cheryl Strayed about the “7 Things That Didn’t Make It Into Wild and the “6 Reasons Wild Almost Didn’t Get Written.” Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, a book club pick for Well Read Black Girl, was interviewed by Ms. Edim at a WRBG live event in Brooklyn, and an excerpt was put up on the WRBG YouTube channel. The panelists wanted authors for their book clubs who were active partners; who would work with the clubs to help promote their title and give readers a meaningful and enjoyable experience.

Book clubs want more substantial reading guides and supplementary material

Panelists generally liked the idea of reading guides and supplemental material to enrich the reading experience for their audiences. But, they noted that sometimes this supplementary material can feel condescending. They, and their book club members, want substantive questions for book club guides. Ms. Caldwell hoped to see romance novels with additional material about consent, feminism, and body image in the reading guides. The members of her book club want to tackle complicated and nuanced questions and would be happy to have more intellectually engaged reading guides. The panelists were also interested in other types of material, like photos from an author’s research, as a digital resource rather than as a print addendum. They are looking for additional content in a variety of formats that truly enriches the reading experience.

Package galleys with the recipient in mind

All panelists expressed a desire to have the relevant information they need about a title in one clear place on a galley. These gatekeepers need to quickly see the pub date, the publisher, and the contact information for the publicist. Printed inserts in galleys tend to get lost, so panelists requested that the publishers in the audience consider putting that crucial information in the frontmatter of their galleys or on the front cover. Including the pub date on the spine is extremely important, too! Ms. Newman receives so many galleys for consideration for the Oprah Book Club that she sorts them into piles by pub date and emphatically requested that all publishers place that date on the spine for easy visibility.

If you’re sending digital galleys to media and book club gatekeepers, be sure to include this important information in your subject line and/or at the beginning of your email!

 

If you are interested in attending future PAMA events, you can take a look at their upcoming events or sign up for their newsletter. We hope to see you there, or at other events around the publishing industry!

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Ask a Book Club: Nina Berman

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.

We’re kicking off this series featuring NetGalley’s Communications Assistant, Nina Berman’s book club.

Photo Credit: Instagram @nnbrmn

Nina Berman’s Book Club: Brooklyn, NY

About the book club

We are group of 10 or so women in our mid-20s-30s living in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Most of us work in creative industries, nonprofits, or are in graduate school. We meet every month at rotating members’ apartments. Most of us prefer to read physical books rather than e-books, although a few of us do read on Kindle. We celebrated our 1-year book club anniversary with mimosas and homemade cinnamon rolls in May.

While none of us are book reviewers, or book bloggers, we are book recommenders, book lenders, and book buyers. One of our members, Razi, shares the titles she reads on Kindle with her mother, and lends physical copies to her neighbor.

Reading scope

Like many book clubs, we tend to gravitate towards literary fiction and literary memoir. We did take a winter detour into True Crime, but have since returned to our wheelhouse. We are looking for books that help us experience the world through other perspectives, and books that help us reframe our own experiences.

To date, my book club has only read books written by women. This is not to say that we haven’t considered books written by men (Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and The Railroad by Colson Whitehead have both been previous nominations). But, we deliberately seek out titles written by underrepresented voices (especially queer voices, women’s voices, and POC voices) and our book club picks tend to reflect that, even though that is not the explicit focus of our club.

Finding new titles

We tend to find new titles from critics and influencers whose opinions and tastes we trust. We recommend books that our friends outside of the book club recommend to us.

For example, I suggested Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose because I had recently listened to an interview with her on the podcast, Another Round and remembered seeing a blurb about the collection in The New Yorker.

Other sources of inspiration include:

Nominating titles

Every month, we vote on three nominations. Two of those nominations come from rotating members of our club, and one of the nominations comes from the book club’s founder, Emily. We nominate books that we’ve been hearing a lot about, or that we have been meaning to read for a long time. Our lists tend to sway between well known authors who have been on our lists for a long time and authors whose names have been cropping up in the media we consume. When our imaginations fail us, we also have a shared Google Doc with titles we collected in the beginning of our book club. When the Google Doc becomes too lean, we add new titles that we have kept in the backs of our minds.

Most of our choices have been published within the past few years (South and West by Joan Didion and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin) rather than the newest titles from the biggest publishing houses. These are the books that we just keep hearing about!

We also let our current book choices influence our future ones, wandering down paths of interest as they crop up organically. Essentially, we make our own comp lists. Last fall, after we read Too Much and Not the Mood, we recognized echoes of Maggie Nelson’s introspective essay style, so we read The Argonauts next. When we discussed which Maggie Nelson title to read, some of us suggested Jane: A Murder or The Red Parts, both of which deal with her aunt’s murder by a serial killer. Still wanting to pick up some true crime, the next title on the list after The Argonauts was the classic true crime tome, The Stranger Beside Me.

Recent reads

  • The Goldfinch (2013) by Donna Tartt, Little, Brown and Company
  • The Stranger Beside Me (1980) by Ann Rule, W. W. Norton & Company
  • The Argonauts (2015) by Maggie Nelson, Graywolf Press
  • Too Much and Not the Mood (2017) by Durga Chew-Bose, FSG Originals
  • Black Swans (1993) by Eve Babitz, Counterpoint

 

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