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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Backlist Alert: Annual Bestseller lists from 1990-2013: It's Fun and Thought Provoking

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Today I am going to send you down a rabbit hole, but a rabbit hole of bookish fun.

Recently, Publisher's Weekly posted their annual bestseller lists for adult titles from 1990-2013-- all on one page!

It's backlist heaven! These are proven crowd pleasers, many of which are sitting on your shelf RIGHT NOW. They want to be read. Get them into people's hands.

I also love how after 2009, they have the links to their more detailed articles on the facts and figures behind the bestsellers list. I used to require my students read this yearly report every semester.

But these lists also reveal something else, something we know and are working to improve upon....these lists are very white. There weren't only white people publishing, or for that matter reading, books since 19900- although you would barely know that by looking at these lists.

But here's the thing, these are not arbitrary lists of people not including diverse voices. These are lists of what people actually bought-- people of all races. That really highlights the magnitude of the problem.

I know some of you are thinking, "Well, we can't fix it now. We just need to move forward."

NO, I say. We can fix it. You can fix it right now at your library.

Look, these lists are fun to post. The nostalgia factor is an awesome draw and people will discover some great backlist reads, books that were once the talk of the town but now are languishing on the shelves. I am not advocating for blatantly disregarding these lists by slapping them with a "racist" label. The lists themselves aren't the problem, they are simply an illustration of the problem.

But, why not take, for example, 1990's list and give it a 2017 makeover? Post the list to create a display of 1990 titles and then go find the other great books you have with a 1990 copyright that are from a broader perspective-- both author diversity wise AND genre wise because goodness knows both are very vanilla.

Here's how you can do this. I did an advanced search in Novelist for Publication Year of 1990 and then clicked the box for award winner. After limiting the results to Adult titles I had 168 fiction and nonfiction options that were some of the best books of that year-- and they were surprisingly diverse. And that took 2 minutes. It took longer to write this paragraph. Imagine what you could do in 30 minutes!

And, the later you go down the timeline the more results you get because the database for awards is deeper from the 21st Century on. Also, NoveList includes all of the ethnic, format, and genre specific winners in their database so you know you will capture these titles.

I think this kind of display, or even if you just make a digital list for Facebook or on your website, is a great way to showcase a wide range of proven winner titles fit for any reader no matter their background. Plus, again, it is fun to travel back in time. Don't count out the fun factor; this is leisure reading we are talking about.

PS-- Don't forget about this post from the beginning of the month when I highlighted Kelly Jensen's Backlist July project. You can totally fit this in under that. And, keep it going every July.

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