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Ann Kingman
Co-publisher, Books on the Nightstand podcast. Sales geek for Random House, I can tie just about anything into a recommenation for a great read.
Co-publisher, Books on the Nightstand podcast. Sales geek for Random House, I can tie just about anything into a recommenation for a great read.

Ann's posts

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Great post on building a community around your business.

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Some thoughts on #BEA13, particularly Power Readers Day:

Having attended Book Expo America as an "industry insider" for the past several years, I tried to approach this year's Power Reader Day as a reader, to see what readers would experience if they shelled out the $49 to attend. In fact, I shelled out the $49 to buy a badge for my 14 year old book-blogging daughter. 

Overall, kid had a great experience and can't wait to repeat it next year. I, however, feel that Power Reader Day didn't quite live up to its potential. And it has a TON of potential. So take these criticisms in the spirit of wanting it to improve, in order to help connect authors and readers in an even greater way in years to come.

As always, these are my opinions and only my opinions, not related to those of my employer Random House, yada yada...

1. BEA needs to promote this more, and beyond NYC.
I cohost reader/author events around the country through our Books on the Nightstand podcast. I know that rabid book lovers will travel by plane, train and automobile to attend the right type of event. BEA could be that type of event, but people have to know about it. We did talk about Power Readers Day on the BOTNS Podcast, through no coordination with BEA -- it was just something we knew our listeners would want to know about. And we had a few listeners attend, including one who flew up from Florida JUST FOR THE DAY. That's right. See her thoughts on her vlog here:

2. Someone needs to tell the Power Readers what to do.
As my friend Tracy mentioned in her video, above, she had no idea what to do, how to act, who to talk to, what to expect. Power Readers were told that there were author signings and they probably knew that there were free books to be had, but beyond that ... who knows? Should they engage the staff at the publishers' booths? What should they ask about? They don't want to bother someone having a meeting ... but what should they do?

3. Publishers need to get on board
I know that many publishers hate the idea of "consumers" (let's call them "readers," shall we?) breaching the hallowed doors of Book Expo America. I say "get over it." You can hate the idea, but If BEA declares it to be happening, these publishers should embrace it. Some did, sort of. There were some name-brand authors (Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Dessen) doing signings. A few publishers had special giveaways. But mostly, it was business as usual. To the readers it was exciting, sure, but most publishers let a huge opportunity slip by. Not a single publisher asked us to sign up for a consumer-oriented mailing list.  One publisher had a box for us to put in our business card to receive an email in which we could download some great e-galleys. That box was filled with post-it notes -- Power Readers don't necessarily have business cards. And it was a teeny-tiny box with a teeny-tiny sign. Most staff didn't initiate conversations. And most readers were not sure how or if they should engage staff. Remember, these Power Readers were told repeatedly that they were the "lucky outsiders." They don't know the protocol, and nobody told them. Publishers need to take the lead.

4. Staff the booths with the people that love readers and know how to talk to readers
Publishers, there are people inside your organization who know how to talk with readers. Maybe they work with readers, maybe the moonlight in a bookstore, maybe they (gasp!) identify as readers themselves. I know there are "reader advocates" working for you. Let them out! It doesn't matter what their business card says or what department they work in -- put them to work at Power Readers Day. In many cases, the best person to talk to readers at BEA is not the best person to talk to the press and booksellers on the other BEA days. I had one person tell me the first print and publicity information about a book (they didn't know me -- to them I was a Power Reader). As a reader, I don't care. Ask me what kinds of books I like and then figure out the books I should know about -- it doesn't matter if you don't have a galley. Hand-sell me something, I'll buy it later!

5. What about some programming?
You know what Power Readers would love? Hearing from editors. A buzz session is good, but a "behind the scenes of publishing" is better. Have an author and editor talk about their working process. Bring a few cover designers and have them talk about their work. Want to see a reader geek out? Show them some alternate covers for jackets they love. It doesn't have to be Chip Kidd on stage (though that would be amazing) -- a few publishing experts in one of the dungeon conference rooms will make readers VERY happy. Every "Power Reader" is curious about ebooks and the impact on publishing -- have a conversation. Same with self-publishing. Readers are hearing about the same issues we have been discussing ad nauseum, but they aren't (yet) bored of it. These readers are the future of our business, and the more they feel like part of it, the more they will become reading and publishing ambassadors.

6. Enable real author-reader connections
Readers love meeting authors. They REALLY love having a conversation with authors, even if it's a conversation with 40 other people in the room. Why relegate the author presence at BEA to "get in line, shove a book in front of the author, have them sign it and walk away?" This is the opportunity for readers to become lifelong fans. It's a chance for authors to talk WITH readers rather than AT them. Have some small author/reader sessions (limited capacity, maybe advance ticketed?) where true interaction can happen.

My suggestions/ideas are simply that, and I know that logistics often stand between idea and execution. But let's start thinking differently. If BEA does Power Readers Day again in 2014, what can we as an industry do to truly embrace readers and make them excited to buy and read books? What are the goals of BEA's Power Readers Day? What should they be? I don't think we need to make it a full-on Comic-Con experience in order for it to be valuable for publishers, readers, authors, and BEA.

So what do you think? I'd love to know your thoughts, either left here in comments or on your own blog or post with a link here. Let's start discussing now ... 2014 is not that far off.

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BookRiot did a Goodreads v. LibraryThing comparison in July -- it's a good overview for those of you thinking of making a switch.

My thoughts on Goodreads in light of the Amazon purchase:

There's been a lot of conversation in my universe about what to do in the wake of the Amazon purchase of Goodreads. Many people in my life own, work, or actively support independent bookstores, and view Amazon as a very real threat to the future of brick and mortar retail, and so do not support any Amazon-owned ventures. In light of that, they have deleted their Goodreads accounts, and there has been much talk of what they will use to replace Goodreads.

Goodreads is (was?) used differently by different people. So any talk of replacement has to include all of these things (and more) in order to truly fit the bill. Right now I can't really find anything out there that fits the bill. Some friends have jokingly (?) suggested that Books on the Nightstand use its platform to build a replacement. Even if we had the time, money, and technical knowledge, building something that is as good as, if not better than, Goodreads needs to take into account all of the various ways that readers use GR:

1. Social conversation about books - the beauty of Goodreads (as opposed to Facebook) is that it is a discrete community of self-identified book lovers. It is easy to find interest groups and forums. The interface is attractive and easy to use. Our Books on the Nighstand group has over 3,000 members. While only a small percentage of those users actively post in the group, there are many lurkers.  This piece is (in my mind) the easiest bit of Goodreads to replace. But many of our BOTNS friends found us because they were already on Goodreads and they stumbled on our group -- and then became podcast listeners. We could put a discussion forum on the Books on the Nightstand site within a day or two (with some research and time). But that would require people to have one more destination to visit, and we wouldn't easily capture book lovers who were on a site for other reasons and who found and joined the BOTNS group. 

2. Book information - Search for a book or author and receive a fairly reliable set of data, including book jacket, ISBN, publisher, etc. Historically, Goodreads used Amazon data for this; in the last year it switched over to licensing this data from Ingram. I don't know who else provides a similar data stream, or how much it would cost a new site to license Ingram's data. At BOTNS, whenever we mention a book, we try to list it in the podcast show notes or on the blog, and link it to a reliable source of information about that book. We've used Goodreads from the start. When we first began BOTNS, you could not access LibraryThing book data unless you had a LT account. That may have changed.

3. Retailer links - This is somewhat related to #2. We chose to link to Goodreads data because users were offered a choice of buy links. At heart we are encouraging book sales through our recommendations, so we believe we should make it easy for folks to buy from whatever retailer they choose. If we linked only to Amazon or B&N, the user was offered only that retailer to purchase from. It was more work for the user to purchase elsewhere. We could link to the publisher of the particular book we are recommending, but that takes more time and not all publisher data is good.

4. Reviews - People love to review books on Goodreads. I don't usually leave text reviews, but I do read others' reviews on Goodreads. I love the fact that my friends' reviews are shown at the top, and then everyone else's. It's an easy way to filter through the reliable and the not-so-relevant. 
In addition, Goodreads reviews are used in the Kobo store (my e-reader of choice, and the ebook platform embraced by independent bookstores throughout the US) and in Edelweiss (an online catalog system for publishers, booksellers, libraries and reviewers). My friends who are deleting their Goodreads reviews are by default causing their reviews to be removed from those systems, which are powerful selling tools for books and authors.

5. Cataloguing - Honestly, I don't use the cataloging features of Goodreads much, but many people do. I do sometimes keep a list of books I want to buy, which I can then access from the Goodreads app while in a bookstore. I think LibraryThing is much more powerful and robust for cataloguing, though the interface is not as pretty as Goodreads.

I'm sure I've only scratched the surface at how people use Goodreads and what they would want in a similar service. I'm going to spend a bit of time looking at replacement possibilities that are out there, including Riffle and Bookish. 

If the desire to build a Goodreads-like site were there, I think that Above the Treeline would be a brilliant company to undertake such an initiative. They have much of the book information already, through their Edelweiss catalogs. I don't know if it would fit into their business model.

The other company that I'd love to see build a social site around books are the creators of Ravelry (, which is an amazing social site and database for the fiber arts (knitting, crochet, etc) with more than 3 million members. I don't know if Casey and Jess have a passion for books, and I think that's probably a requirement for them to take on a project. But I'd sure love to see what they could build.

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Random thoughts from an outsider about #AWP13  

Last week I attended the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference. This huge conference (12,000 attended this year) moves around the country, and this year it was in my backyard. I couldn't justify the $285 non-member fee, but I was able to barter some bookselling hours for a badge (after being rejected for a press pass -- they require 100,000 page views per month for one of those).

Many people better versed in all things AWP have weighed in on the conference. Porter Anderson takes on AWP in a big way here: 
and here:
And author Julianna Baggott tackles AWP with a post entitled: "AWP--Why the Absence of the Mainstream Publishing Industry Matters."

I quickly branded myself as an outsider when I asked a question in a panel about literary magazines. One of the panelists answered in a way that was relevant to writers (understandably, since this is a writer's conference). "Oh no," I said, "I'm not a writer--I'm asking as a reader." There was no audible gasp from the room of 150, but it sure did feel like one as heads swiveled to stare at me.

And that was my big takeaway from AWP: there was little conversation about the reader. All of these writers, and people who teach writers, all of the literary magazines and all of the small and micro presses -- and yet there was little discussion about how to bring the work to the reader and what the reader may want. There is (I hear) a lot of discussion about whether or not MFA programs should teach the 'business' of writing. There were several sessions (and grumblings in between) about authors and social media, and building "platform." But most of the conversation was meant to serve the writer. The reader felt invisible to me.

Not only was mainstream publishing mostly absent from AWP (as Julianna Baggott observed), but it felt like the publishers at AWP are absent from the conversation happening within mainstream publishing.

On twitter, Rebecca Schinsky commented that if AWP was "MFA-Con," she had little interest. In fact, it is MFA-Con, but it is also "LitMag-Con" and "SmallPress-Con" -- and I found those parts of AWP very exciting. Traveling the cavernous and poorly-arranged "bookfair," I was stunned by what I can only describe as "coolness." As a somewhat jaded veteran of mainstream publishing, I found a lot to be excited about. Nouvella Books (, a publishing company that publishes only novellas in a very cool format. Mud Luscious press (, run by one guy at his kitchen table. Bull {Men's Fiction}, a literary magazine with a clear POV and production qualities that made me buy their only two issues without a thought, even though I'm not a man.

The problem with many of these "cool" indie presses and lit mags is that they were at AWP (I think) to find writers -- not readers. Many didn't know how to talk to someone who isn't looking to submit to their press. The tables were staffed with editors, not marketers. Many that I talked to expressed the belief that their only readers were those who were also hoping to be published in their journal or by their press.

What a lost opportunity. And what a great opportunity for independent bookstores. I came away from AWP thinking that if I owned an independent bookstore, I'd find some way to find and feature this kind of work. I know it's not easy, and many of these small presses don't know how to make it easy for bookstores to order, or how to fulfill. But if there's one way for a bookstore that has the right type of community to differentiate itself, it's by highlighting and featuring some of this work that is otherwise invisible to the general reading public. I don't know the best venue to bring these two worlds together, but someone needs to figure it out. There's great work out there that needs a readership, and there are great bookstores out there looking to diversify their offerings.

I did come away from AWP hopeful (and hundreds of dollars poorer). No matter what happens to the publishing industry, there will always be writers and stories. If everything else falls apart, there will still be people sitting at their kitchen table stapling photocopied stories, hoping to get the work out to those who want to read it.

I am having Google+ performance anxiety. Which circles do I share this with? Is that leaving out someone who might find it interesting? What if I put someone in the wrong circle? Argh!
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