I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Jump on the "Bestsellers" Bandwagon

I have been mourning the loss of my favorite bestseller list, the USA Today Bestseller list, which was discontinued on December 1, 2022. I loved this list because it gathered the top 150 books that sold in a given week without worrying about what category said book fell in, who published it, and for what age. Literally just the 150 best selling titles. It was an easy way to understand, from one perspective, what the most popular books were in the country at any snapshot in time.

But alas, it is gone.

However, that does not mean you get to stop caring about bestseller lists. Rather, you have to be even more aware because the landscape is fractured. You can use the NYT lists, PW Lists, Amazon lists, Bookshop.org, any and all. But it is hard to follow so many. I am settling on the PW lists as my default because they use BookScan data

Here is the hard truth not matter which list you use, it is important not because of the numbers these titles sell but because for many patrons, a book being a Bestseller is a genre. Yes I know that genre as we see it had absolutely nothing to do with genre conventions, but....

That really doesnt matter to our patrons.

For many readers, “bestseller” is a designation that means the book is good and worth their time. It is a way for them to shift through the thousands of reading options and create a smaller universe of books to choose from. They want to know if the book is popular because that will let them know it is worth a try. Others liked it, so I probably will too. 

Look, I know this is frustrating because with just a few moments of their time and a quick conversation, we could find those patrons the perfect read regardless of whether it was a bestseller or not, but again, if the patron wants a “bestseller,” your best option is to have as many types of bestseller lists to cull from as possible.

As I mentioned above, I seek out many bestseller lists on a regular basis both to use as I help readers, but also to give me a sense of the niche areas. What books are popular in certain genres? What authors are getting a lot of buzz? What is popular in self publishing? There are many reasons to know this information, but here is an important example. When patrons first started coming in to ask for Colleen Hoover, many library workers had no idea who she was. However, if those library workers had been aware of the self publishing bestselling charts or even, at that time, followed the USA Today, they would not have been caught off guard because she was everywhere on those lists.

People saw Colleen Hoover on those bestsellers lists, they heard their friends talking about her, and they wanted to know what the buzz was about, so they turned to their libraries figuring if it was truly this popular and bestselling the library was bound to have it. 

Once you become consciously aware of the fact that patrons love the concept of "bestsellers" more than how many copies they sold, you can use "bestsellers" to your advantage by creating your own library's hyper-local "bestsellers" list. Use the word "bestseller" because it will draw the attention of our patrons. It is a word they know and understand. It is a word they trust. And, it is not library jargon;  it is plain language.

So how do you do this? How can you create a hyper-local bestseller list?

Your ILS can easily be mined for useful data here. Running reports on materials is something that is done regularly by most public libraries. But generally these reports are run by the tech services and or circ staff for very specific purposes: missing reports, overdue materials, billed, clearing the hold shelf, identifying titles for potential weeding, etc....

But, we could just as easily be running reports on more positive things like the items that are most checked out, or as we need to rebrand them as-- THE LIBRARY’S BESTSELLERS LIST!

Here are some easy to pull up lists in most ILS:

  • General Best Sellers-- most checkout out of the week overall or broken down by each service area; so Adult, teen, kids, fiction, nonfiction.
  • Format Best Sellers-- most checked out videos, audio books, streamed, download, Large Print.
  • Genre Best Sellers-- as long as you have the genre noted somewhere in the item record be it in a subject heading or in it’s own field, you can easily do this.
  • Want to promote the non-traditional things you check out like technology items [Go Pro cameras, Rokus] or maker items like sewing machine, art kits; some libraries do fishing poles and art. Whatever. Do a Best Seller lists of unexpected items. People might not even know that you have them.
  • And my favorite.... Make some Backlist Best Seller Lists. For example, the most popular adult items checked out this week which were published before 2000. Or whatever your parameters. These are great to remind people that it is not only the newest 3 James Patterson books that are being checked out.

However, you also need to make sure these lists make room for marginalized voices. So if you pull these lists and find they are too white or too straight, intentionally diversify them with diverse readalike titles as well. But Becky....that would be changing the lists? Yes it would. But guess what? There is no library jail that someone is going to send you for doing this. You are in charge here. Your goal is to get books in front of people in an enticing manner so that they check them out. They are NOT going to fact check you, especially if you are saying...Hey, these books are popular here at our library!

In fact, I would even go so far as to look at those "bestseller" lists and remove the obvious authors-- Patterson, Roberts, King, Baldacci, etc.... All those authors that everyone knows about already. The point of creating lists and displays at the library is to expose people to books they would never have known about without your help. Making them "bestseller" displays and lists that are surprising, that alert them to titles they didn't know about, that's where you will get their attention.

And this is where we get back tot he beginning of this post. Now that the only true bestseller list we ever had-- The USA Today-- is gone, we are left with a landscape of fractured and specialized lists. Let's jump on the bandwagon and add our voice to the bestseller conversation. Apparently everyone has an agenda with their lists and none are 100% true. We can do that as well. And by making the experience hyper-local, our patrons will feel like they are getting more personalized service. 

Everybody wins when you jump on the bestsellers bandwagon.

To see everything I have (and will tag) "bestsellers" click here

Monday, February 27, 2023

How to Talk About Book Bans

I have talked about using Boor Riot's censorship coverage as a resource many times. Once again, here is that direct link. But specifically, there is always a huge round up of everything you need to know every Friday.

Kelly Jensen (for full transparency, she is also the Sumemr Scares YA expert) who manages the censorship coverage does more than just give you all the (mostly bad) news, she is also actively engaged in responding to the library workers who contact her to create content that they can use in the fight against those who want to limit our intellectual Freedom. 

Back on the 17th, she had this excellent post giving you step by step instructions on how to talk to people about book bans. She has a section on talking to your friends and family-- people you know-- and a section on how to talk to your patrons. You can get direct access to it here.

Please bookmark this page. This is one of the most common questions I get as well. How do we talk about book bans to those who are shocked to see what is happening all over the country and don't really understand what is happening. There is also a lot of misinformation that our supporters believe-- such as-- if they ban it, that will increase interest and sales. This has been disproven from a sale standpoint, but even more dangerous is the thought that if a book is banned more kids will want to  read it. Without access at school and public libraries, most kids will NEVER see those books, let alone read them. And the majority of challenged materials feature Black and/or LGBTQ characters. The banners are trying to erase their experiences. For children and young adults to not be able to access books that validate their experiences or those of their families is atrocious.

I have no illusions that this topic is difficult and complicated to talk about, but I promise you, this post is easy for you to follow. Let this post do the work for you. Everything is arranged in easy to digest bullet points. Keep it bookmarked for when you need it, but also to practice using these talking points on patrons, your friends, and family. Get comfortable arguing for intellectual freedom everywhere you go, not just in library situations or when it comes up. This is a topic that can and should be brought up anywhere and at anytime. we are way behind our organized opposition at communicating the basics.

In fact, I would like end today's post with a Call to Action: Commit to using these talking points at least once a day. You can start with your family and best friends, then move on to talking with each other at work in full ear shot of patrons, and finally engage a patron and encourage them to become a supporter. Just start talking out loud about book bans, even without being asked for your opinion.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: Bram Stoker Awards Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool. 

Last night, the HWA announced the final ballot for the 2022  Bram Stoker Awards. This is the only award I write about where I actually get to have a vote on who wins, so it holds a special place in my heart.  I have posted the entire ballot below, with links to where I reviewed or gave away a title. But first a few observations about the ballot, since this is a genre and an award with which I am intimately aquatinted.

  • I read and reviewed all 5 nominees in the Novel category and am on the record stating which I think is the best of the bunch.
  • I am so proud to have been a part of the first ever award in the category of Middle Grade. I do not have reviews for these titles because as a member of the jury, I did not want to go on the record about any of them; however, I can tell you with 100% certainty, all 5 of these titles is worthy of the haunted house statue. I also want to note that these 5 titles will forever be the first crop of nominees for this category, and that alone is a HUGE honor.
  • Just saying, but back in May of 2022, I correctly predicted (in LJ) one of the nominees here. The novella was that good when I read it in this anthology. 
  • I got to read Tiffany Jackson's The Weight of Blood (YA category) and interview the author on a panel for a Library Journal event. This book is GOOD. 
  • That stacked anthology category! 2 points here. First, every single nominee is a woman! Second, two of the editors were included in an article I wrote for The Lineup, "These Six Anthologists Are Masterful Curators of Terror." By the way, I have another article coming next month about the best Middle Grade Horror for adults.
In terms of using this award for suggestions, displays, and as a CD tool, the HWA makes it as easy as possible because we have an entire website just for the Awards. Click through to get lists of every nominee and winner. You can even search by author and see every time and in which category they were nominated. It is a library worker's dream as a resource.

Okay enough lead up. Here are the official nominees for the 2022 Bram Stoker Award. You can tune in on Saturday June 17, 2023 to see the winners announced live. Details closer to the event. You might even catch me up on the stage. 

Click here to access the 2022 Final Ballot

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) is pleased to announce the Final Ballot for the 2022 Bram Stoker Awards®.

The HWA (see http://www.horror.org/) is the premier writers organization in the horror and dark fiction genre, with more than 1,800 members. We have presented the Bram Stoker Awards in various categories since 1987 (see https://www.thebramstokerawards.com/).

Works appearing on this Ballot are Bram Stoker Award® Nominees for Superior Achievement in their Category, e.g., Novel, and everyone may refer to them as such immediately after the announcement. 

The HWA Board and the Bram Stoker Awards® Committee congratulate all those appearing on the Final Ballot. Notes about the voting process will appear after the ballot listing. 

The 2022 Bram Stoker Awards® Final Ballot Superior Achievement in a Novel 
Iglesias, Gabino – The Devil Takes You Home (Mullholland Press) 
Katsu, Alma – The Fervor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) 
Kiste, Gwendolyn – Reluctant Immortals (Saga Press) 
Malerman, Josh – Daphne (Del Rey) 
Ward, Catriona – Sundial (Tor Nightfire) 

Superior Achievement in a First Novel 
Adams, Erin – Jackal (Bantam Books) 
Cañas, Isabel – The Hacienda (Berkley) 
Jones, KC – Black Tide (Tor Nightfire) 
Nogle, Christi – Beulah (Cemetery Gates Media) 
Wilkes, Ally – All the White Spaces (Emily Bestler Books/Atria/Titan Books) 

Superior Achievement in a Middle Grade Novel 
Dawson, Delilah S. – Camp Scare (Delacorte Press) 
Kraus, Daniel – They Stole Our Hearts (Henry Holt and Co.) 
Malinenko, Ally – This Appearing House (Katherine Tegen Books) 
Senf, Lora – The Clackity (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) 
Stringfellow, Lisa – A Comb of Wishes (Quill Tree Books) 

Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel 
Aquilone, James (editor) – Kolchak: The Night Stalker: 50th Anniversary (Moonstone Books) 
Gailey, Sarah (author) and Bak, Pius (artist) – Eat the Rich (Boom! Studios) 
Manzetti, Alessandro (author) and Cardoselli, Stefano (artist/author) – Kraken Inferno: The Last Hunt (Independent Legions Publishing) 
Tynion IV, James (author) and Dell’Edera, Werther (artist) – Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 4 (Boom! Studios) 
Young, Skottie (author) and Corona, Jorge (artist) – The Me You Love in the Dark (Image Comics) 

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel 
Fraistat, Ann – What We Harvest (Delacorte Press) 
Jackson, Tiffany D. – The Weight of Blood (Katherine Tegen Books) 
Marshall, Kate Alice – These Fleeting Shadows (Viking) 
Ottone, Robert P. – The Triangle (Raven Tale Publishing)
Schwab, V.E. – Gallant (Greenwillow Books) 
Tirado, Vincent – Burn Down, Rise Up (Sourcebooks Fire) 

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction 
Allred, Rebecca J. and White, Gordon B. – And in Her Smile, the World (Trepidatio Publishing) 
Carmen, Christa – “Through the Looking Glass and Straight into Hell” (Orphans of Bliss: Tales of Addiction Horror) (Wicked Run Press) 
Hightower, Laurel – Below (Ghoulish Books) 
Katsu, Alma – The Wehrwolf (Amazon Original Stories) 
Knight, EV – Three Days in the Pink Tower (Creature Publishing) 

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction 
Dries, Aaron – “Nona Doesn’t Dance” (Cut to Care: A Collection of Little Hurts) (IFWG Australia, IFWG International) 
Gwilym, Douglas – “Poppy’s Poppy” (Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, Vol. V, No. 6) 
McCarthy, J.A.W.  – “The Only Thing Different Will Be the Body” (A Woman Built by Man) (Cemetery Gates Media) 
Taborska, Anna – “A Song for Barnaby Jones” (Zagava) 
Taborska, Anna – “The Star” (Great British Horror 7: Major Arcane) (Black Shuck Books) 
Yardley, Mercedes M. – “Fracture” (Mother: Tales of Love and Terror) (Weird Little Worlds) 

Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection 
Ashe, Paula D. – We Are Here to Hurt Each Other (Nictitating Books) 
Joseph, RJ – Hell Hath No Sorrow Like a Woman Haunted (The Seventh Terrace) 
Khaw, Cassandra – Breakable Things (Undertow Publications) 
Thomas, Richard – Spontaneous Human Combustion (Keylight Books) 
Veres, Attila – The Black Maybe (Valancourt Books) 

Superior Achievement in a Screenplay 
Cooper, Scott – The Pale Blue Eye (Cross Creek Pictures, Grisbi Productions, Streamline Global Group) 
Derrickson, Scott and Cargill, C. Robert – The Black Phone (Blumhouse Productions, Crooked Highway, Universal Pictures) Duffer Brothers, The – Stranger Things: Episode 04.01 “Chapter One: The Hellfire Club” (21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre, Netflix, Upside Down Pictures) 
Garland, Alex – Men (DNA Films) 
Goth, Mia and West, Ti – Pearl (A24, Bron Creative, Little Lamb, New Zealand Film Commission) 

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection 
Bailey, Michael and Simon, Marge – Sifting the Ashes (Crystal Lake Publishing) 
Lynch, Donna – Girls from the County (Raw Dog Screaming Press) 
Pelayo, Cynthia – Crime Scene (Raw Dog Screaming Press) 
Saulson, Sumiko – The Rat King: A Book of Dark Poetry (Dooky Zines) 
Sng, Christina – The Gravity of Existence (Interstellar Flight Press) 

Superior Achievement in an Anthology 
Datlow, Ellen – Screams from the Dark: 29 Tales of Monsters and the Monstrous (Tor Nightfire) 
Hartmann, Sadie and Saywers, Ashley – Human Monsters: A Horror Anthology (Dark Matter Ink) 
Nogle, Christi and Becker, Willow – Mother: Tales of Love and Terror (Weird Little Worlds) 
Ryan, Lindy – Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga (Black Spot Books) 
Tantlinger, Sara – Chromophobia: A Strangehouse Anthology by Women in Horror (Strangehouse Books) 

Superior Achievement in Non–Fiction 
Cisco, Michael – Weird Fiction: A Genre Study (Palgrave Macmillan) 
Hieber, Leanna Renee and Janes, Andrea – A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts (Citadel Press) 
Kröger, Lisa and Anderson, Melanie R. – Toil and Trouble: A Women’s History of the Occult (Quirk Books) 
Waggoner, Tim – Writing in the Dark: The Workbook (Guide Dog Books) 
Wytovich, Stephanie M. – Writing Poetry in the Dark (Raw Dog Screaming Press) 

Superior Achievement in Short Non–Fiction 
Murray, Lee – “I Don’t Read Horror (& Other Weird Tales)” (Interstellar Flight Magazine) (Interstellar Flight Press) 
Pelayo, Cynthia – “This is Not a Poem” (Writing Poetry in the Dark) (Raw Dog Screaming Press) 
Wetmore, Jr., Kevin J. – “A Clown in the Living Room: The Sinister Clown on Television” (The Many Lives of Scary Clowns: Essays on Pennywise, Twisty, the Joker, Krusty and More) (McFarland and Company) 
Wood, L. Marie – “African American Horror Authors and Their Craft: The Evolution of Horror Fiction from African Folklore” (Conjuring Worlds: An Afrofuturist Textbook for Middle and High School Students) (Conjure World) 
Wood, L. Marie, “The H Word: The Horror of Hair” (Nightmare Magazine, No. 118) (Adamant Press) 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

What I'm Reading: The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro With a Giveaway

Today, I am cross-posting the #HorrorForLibraries giveaway from the Horror blog because I also want to make sure all of my readers know about V. Castro's Big 5 debut. It comes out 4/18/23 so now is the time to make sure you got your pre-order in. Also, consider using the link toward the end to make sure you have all of her books because readers who discover this remarkable book will 100% want to read more.


Today I am offering a bound manuscript copy of V. Castro's first Big 5 novel. I gave this book a STAR win the January 2023 issue of Library Journal. Details below, but first, here are the details on how to enter:

  1. You need to be affiliated with an American public library. My rationale behind that is that I will be encouraging you to read these books and share them with patrons. While many of them are advanced reader copies that you cannot add to your collections, if you get the chance to read them, my hope is that you will consider ordering a copy for your library and give away the ARC away as a prize or pass it on to a fellow staff member.
  2. If you are interested in being included in any giveaway at any time, you must email me at zombiegrl75 [at] gmail [dot] com with the subject line "#HorrorForLibraries." In the body of the email all you have to say is that you want to be entered and the name of your library.
  3. Each entry will be considered for EVERY giveaway. Meaning you enter once, and you are entered until you win. I will randomly draw a winner on Fridays sometime after 5pm central. But only entries received by 5pm each week will be considered for that week. I use Random.org and have a member of my family witness the "draw"based off your number in the Google Sheet.
  4. If you win, you are ineligible to win again for 4 weeks; you will have to re-enter after that time to be considered [I have a list of who has won, when, and what title]. However, if you do not win, you carry over into the next week. There is NO NEED to reenter.

Click here to see giveaway #113. Our winner was Lauren from Rutherford [NY] Public Library. Now to this week's giveaway.

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro is terrifying, both as a Horror novel, but also because all of the "haunting" is written to feel so real. Yes some of that is because it is based on misogyny and colonialism which are very real horror. Yes because Alexandra's pain is not just from generations of haunting and trauma, it is grounded in reality as well. But there is more than that. The way Castro describes Alejandra's life and then seamlessly incorporates her ancestors issue  immersive and terrifying that I felt the terror as I was reading. That is remarkable.

Here is the link to my LJ Star review draft language via Goodreads:

Three Words That Describe This Book: utterly terrifying, generational trauma, engrossing 

Draft review: Alejandra has just moved with her husband and three children from Texas to Philadelphia only months after finally connecting with her birth mother, Cathy. Overwhelmed, lonely, and paralyzed by suicidal thoughts which are manifesting as violent and disquieting visions that seems too real to be only in her head, Alejandra is barely getting through each day. Told mostly from Alejandra’s point of view in the novel’s “present,” and enhanced by well placed and clearly marked flashbacks beginning in 1522 and moving forward in time, readers follow Alejandra and her ancestors,watching helpless as a demon stalks the women of this family for centuries, actively feeding off of and infecting each generation of women. Using the Mexican horror folklore of La Llorona as a frame and expertly updating it for a modern audience, this is a story of generational trauma, colonization, systemic oppression, and the horror at the heart of motherhood. Utterly terrifying and wholly immersive, readers will be wowed by this confident, unflinching, and powerful tale of a woman reclaiming her power, actively fighting to save both herself and the countless women who will come after her. 

Verdict: Castro’s Big 5 debut will bring her critically acclaimed, unflinchingly honest, sensual, and raw horror to a larger audience. Suggest far and wide to fans of unapologetically feminist, thought-provoking, and engrossing horror that gives voice to the voiceless such as works by Carmen Maria Machado or Gwendloyn Kiste.

The Haunting of Alejandra is out April 18th. It is from Del Rey, the same imprint with PRH who published Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Josh Malerman, and more. This book will introduce more readers to Castro and you should go back and make sure you have her other titles which are spread out across the publishing landscape.

Thanks to Del Rey who shared a bound manuscript (this is pre-ARC) with me for the review process and so that I could host this giveaway.

Enter now and you are entered going forward and forward includes 2 winners of Eric LaRocca's debut novel (coming in April) and more! Good luck.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Don't Be Scared of BookTok: Let Others Help You

One of the most frequent questions I get from library staff revolves around BookTok. How can they keep up with all of the BookTok titles and have copies ready? Where do you go to find out what is trending? And, most importantly, how can we use BookTok to our advantage?

The issues here are multi-faceted. First, many library workers are simply overwhelmed by the success of BookTok as a discovery tool-- there are many books that seem to pop up without rhyme or reason. People are coming in and asking for titles and we don't know why. This is not only overwhelming, but over time, it can feel like we are failing at our basic job. 

Second, many simply just don't have time to worry about one more platform. It is not easy to get on TikTok and use it as a resource to filter out the videos and titles that will be most useful to us. Since everyone's TikTok is tailored to them, we cannot recreate our patron's experience of using it as a book discovery resource as easily as we can do this with other resources.

Third, there is a lot of pressure from managers to make sure we have the titles that are most popular, to appear responsive, but not all of them are new, some are old enough to have been weeded, and not every library has money to add copies. You are under pressure to have all the books, but often don't have the budget to add them. Also, if it is a book that went out of popularity a few years ago, was rightfully weeded, and now it has found new life on BookTok and you have to buy it again....well there are feelings there ranging from, again, feeling like you have failed to managers chastising staff for this "mistake." (Yes, I have heard this.)

There are more issues but these appear to be the most common. And my answer to every one of these questions harkens back to one of my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service-- Use Resources

You should not spend you time on BookTok trying to anticipate what books will rise to viral status. That is  NOT where your limited time should be spent. Rather, you need to rely on those who have skin in the game-- meaning money-- who are paying people to cull BookTok for this information, such as Book Riot or Barnes and Noble

That's where I come in to assist. I have compiled the most useful resources for you and started a tag here on the blog for BookTok so you can easily gather all future posts as well:

  • For publishing industry news revolving around BookTok go to LitHub for coverage.
  • Book Riot is a site that prioritizes having the content people want. Their writers are encourged to write pieces that will get the most possible clicks. This is something we do not have time to do, and yet, it is something that is highly valuable to us as a resource. Their staff writers have done the work to figure out what content will be the most useful to the widest swath of readers. So, use this link to access all of the BookTok related content. It is ready to use immediately.
  • Crowdsource the thoughts of actual readers by following the lists they are making on Goodreads with this link. The fact that these readers took the time to move their suggestions from BookTok to Goodreads, means that these titles rose to the top.
  • Barnes and Noble has a regularly updated page where they post the most popular titles on BookTok  because they want to sell copies of these titles to the most number of people. Their editors add bonus content and they break it down by genres and subjects. Again, they want to sell these titles. Follow their lead. They did the heavy lifting for you already.

Next, now that you have the resources, what are you going to do with them? Well, your goal is to make displays and lists that show your patrons that you not only have these books but also, that you are aware of how they are being marketed. 

For example, if you are regularly using the BookTok tag on Book Riot to stay informed, you would see a post like this, "All the Horror Books That Scare the Sh*t out of HorrorTok." Now you can turn around and make your own display in the building and lists all over your digital platforms called, "Books too Scary for BookTok." 

Or their version of a readalike list for some of the most viral BookTok titles, such as this post "11 Unforgettable Books like Carrie Soto is Back."

You get the point. Use the resources to not only keep you in the know about specific viral titles, but also to stay on top of the larger book conversations that are happening there. Use what you learn to populate your book discovery tools at your library. It will make it easy for your users to help themselves, yes, but it will also show them, in no uncertain terms, that you care about the titles they have discovered on BookTok. You are legitimizing their personal experience. You are making them feel listened to and valued. You are providing excellent service to leisure readers without adding to your already full work load.

One final point. I know some of you are still not convinced because another popular question I get, which I purposely left out of the list at the top is -- Why should I care about BookTok? I left this question off the top because it is toxic and I didn't want to poison the post, but I would remiss not bringing it up.

You should care because BookTok has done more than we every have to energize people, especially younger adults, to read for the pure joy of it. Their results are literally our dream. People are excited about reading for the fun of it in numbers we have never seen. As a result, we have more library visitors coming to check out books, and more at an age that we have been trying to get to come back to the library. We often lose those 25-40 year olds. They leave us after school ends and don't come back until they have children to bring to storytimes. And if that is the only reason they come back, we have failed because we have lost them as users for themselves. We often never get these users back, or when we do, they are already retired. The implications for our budgets is huge. We cannot only be for the young and the old and expect to stay funded.

The pure joy and excitement BookTok is generating is infectious-- literally-- it's gone viral. LitHub sent a reporter to the first annual Barnes and Noble BookTok festival to capture that joy. Read their article entitled "BookTok is Good, Actually: On the Undersung Joys of a Vast and Multifaceted Platform."

This article, the quotes from participants, everything there, this is why you should care.

Please get the BookTok bandwagon by using resources. And check back here on RA for All for more BookTok content. I have gone back and added the BookTok tag to every past post where it came up as well, so there is already a solid archive of RA for All BookTok content if you click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Crash Course in Science Fiction Slides and Learn With Novelist Access

Click here for slide access
NoveList and LibraryReads have teamed up over the last few years to offer free webinars that serve as a "Crash Course" on a genre or format. 

Recently, they had the first "repeat." They updated their original presentation on Science Fiction.

Beginning with this first repeat, NoveList has made some changes to how you access these programs.

They will remain free to watch live. Always. If you attend the live session you will also receive access to the slides for 2 weeks, which you can download.

After that, they will go to the Learn with NoveList platform where you can access each for $20. So, for example, if you get a new employee, for $20 you can have experts teach them about the state of SF right now. Over time, there will be more to choose from. But for now, that $20 gets you the webinar plus access to the exclusive, in-depth bonus materials include:
  • Interactive info on subgenres, appeals, and themes
  • How to help readers of science fiction
  • Expanded NoveList science fiction search demo
  • Genre guides for all ages
  • Recommended Reads

While this bonus content is totally worth the $20, I expressed concerned with the higher ups at NoveList about the amount of paper work some library workers would have to complete just to get authorized for $20. The price is very fair, but as someone who worked at a library who would have paid for this for me and my staff, I also know it would require a lot of paperwork and waiting for me to get to the point where we could watch it. To be honest, I might not have prioritized it over day to day work.

However, if I had the slide access and could see how much it would be worth it. I could also use some of the material ASAP to help readers. Not all but some, and as a NoveList subscriber, even more.

To her credit, NoveList VP Danielle Borasky immediately agreed to allowing me to post the slides for all of you.

While you are there, consider signing up for Robin's and my Actively Anti-Racist Service to Readers class. There is plenty of time to complete the asynchronous learning before we come for the next live Q&A event on Monday April 17th. If you use the code "Becky" or "Robin" -- your choice-- you can get $40 off. There are also discounts for any library who wants to buy multiple seats. Email me and I will make sure someone contacts you ASAP with those discounts. Who knows? Maybe they will throw in Crash Course access as well. I am willing to ask for you.

Monday, February 20, 2023

A Conversation With Zoje Stage On a Brand New ARC Focused Podcast (Featuring Me As Well)

I know some libraries are closed today, so I thought I would share something both useful and fun. My friend Robb Olsen stared a new podcast (he is an experienced podcaster, go here to listen to the first time I met Robb in person and recorded a podcast with him way back ion 2017).

The podcast is called The ARC Party, and it is perfect for library workers because just like the title hints at, this is a podcast with authors of books that have not come out yet. This is the exact space we operate in at libraries when it comes to new books. We need information before they come out. We need to know if we should order a title-- and we are ordering 3-6 months in advance. We also need to know who the best audience for this book is BEFORE it comes out, so we can make sure to get it into the correct people's hands. We want the book to checkout because that shows we made good collection choices, but we also want to make sure it is checked out by its best reader. 

So many of the book podcasts feature a book in the days before it comes out and then right after. What Robb is doing is exciting for authors because it gives them a chance to talk about their book early, to build buzz. But it is also a time when they are not as frazzled and pulled in a million directions doing promotion. It is also going to to be the first time some of them talk about their book to others.

That was exactly the case when Robb invited me to be a part of Zoje Stage's episode to talk about her upcoming title, Mothered. Robb invited me because I reviewed Mothered in the January issue of Library Journal, and in the past we have bonded over our shared love of her novel Wonderland. Stage straight ups said that this was going to be the first time she talked about Mothered to others. I think it makes for a better conversation, one that is more authentic, less promotional, and a better resource for what we need in libraries.

Stage is sharing her book at its essence. She is not worried about taking points or what her marketing people have told her to push. She is honest about the book, the writing process, and what she was trying to do. Also from the interviewer side, both Robb and I read the book way early and our thoughts are also not influenced by marketing or even other readers. It makes for a great conversation, one that library workers will get a lot of useful information out of. 

You can listen for yourself  as the full episode is available on any podcast app you can think of, but here’s the website for direct access as well: https://www.thearcparty.com/p/zoje-stage-mothered#details

Robb also posts a video version on You Tube, fully indexed, where you can jump to the section you want to listen to. That is accessible here.

He also made a promotion clip of Stage talking about the book here.

And one of me talking to authors and publishers about how to get their books into libraries. 

Mothered comes out March 1st. I am pretty sure most of you have it on order already, but use the podcast to hear why we think readers will love it. This will make it easier for you to get this book into the right reader's hands. 

Oh, and one final note. Stage LOVES going to book clubs. So if you read one of her books, reach out to her on social media. She will virtually dial in for your book club. We talk about it right near the start of the episode. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

What I'm Reading: a House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A new issue of Booklist and another Horror review by Becky.

As usual, this is my draft review with bonus content by an author who is a library worker AND patron favorite. In fact, this title made the March 2023 LibraryReads list that published this week.

A House With Good Bones
By T. Kingfisher
Mar. 2023. 256p. Tor Nightfire, $26.99 (9781250829795)
First published February 15, 2023 (Booklist).

Kingfisher presents a Southern Gothic with a twist, swapping out an isolated mansion for an unassuming tract home in a North Carolina subdivision. When her latest dig gets canceled, Sam, a 32 year-old archaeoentomologist--she studies bugs at archaeological sites– goes to stay with her mom in the home previously occupied by her abusive grandmother an realizes that her mom is acting strangely. She has changed the decor, is acting as if she is under surveillance, and there are vultures surrounding the house. Immediately unsettled, readers will quickly fall into Sam’s conversational narration, as she injects nerdy humor, worries about her mom, and shares facts about bugs, her grandmother’s rose bushes, and more. As each day passes, things get stranger and more dangerous, the unease gives way to palpable fear, and it becomes undeniably clear that something supernatural is at work, and then, the wild and witchy action packed final act is unleashed. For fans of stories that take the haunted house trope, driven by generation trauma, and overlay other occult themes like The Good House by Due and How To Sell a Haunted House by Hendrix.

Further Appeal: First, the elephant in the room, when I read this I noticed immediately that the themes and frame were eerily similar to the Hendrix title listed as a readalike in the review above. I read them within weeks of each other so it was very striking to me. Astute readers will notice, one of the titles got a star and the other didn't. Both are very good though.

I like how the book was organized by the days Sam was in the house. Sections were labeled, "The First Day," "The Second Day," and so on. It added to the overall unease of the story because it all manifested for Sam as monotony punctuated by odd occurrences. The tallying of the days was both marking the time slowly and making the reader realize just how quickly it was all spiraling. This may sound confusing, but trust me, when you read it, both feelings exist at the same time.

Sam is hilarious and super nerdy. The choice of her uber specific career and how fascinating it was to learn the things she knows about bugs was cool. It was also an important part of the book because it was her scientific bug knowledge that makes her begin to suspect that something is very wrong.

In fact, every bit of frame added here, not just Sam's job, matters. Especially the vultures. Oh my goodness, the vultures were great. But all of it. Every detail in the setting and background are important and play off. Characters too. No matter how small, they matter.

A great horror novel with wide appeal because it is scary, but not terrifying.

Three Words That Describe This Book: uneasy, family trauma, filled w/ interesting frame

Further Readalikes: Haunted houses colliding with family trauma are very popular now. More titles to check out include The Spite House by Johnny Compton, Mapping The Interior by Stephen Graham Jones, and The Grip of It by Jac Jemc