Posts Tagged ‘Bethanne Patrick’

We interrupt this public service blog for an announcement from our sponsor, NetGalley…

When I recently announced that NetGalley had reached the milestone of 5,000 registered members, I promised more info about our community of professional readers – who they are, how they read, etc. The data below was drawn from internal statistics on our site as well as a recent online survey answered by over 655 NetGalley members.

Who they are

As you might expect, the biggest community using NetGalley is reviewers – including bloggers and print reviewers – making up about 50% of total registered members. The remaining 50% is a mix of librarians, booksellers, educators, and media.

How they read

Though nostalgia for printed books and galleys remains high on blogs, twitter discussions and in other venues, our members are inclined to read digitally if it means faster access to new titles. A whopping 71% see “quick access to new galleys” as the biggest draw to digital galleys. And well over three-quarters of the respondents will read either print or digital galleys, with only 12% responding “I will only read print galleys.”

Also mirroring wider trends in reading devices, just over 60% read galleys by downloading them to their computer. As for dedicated reading devices, Amazon’s Kindle was the winner at 16%. The Sony Reader was next in line at 12%, with Barnes & Noble’s new Nook at only 5%.

NOTE: We conducted our survey before the iPad hit stores. In addition, the iPad currently does not support DRM-ed (protected) files – so the only galleys from NetGalley that can be read on that device are galleys that the publishers are offering as DRM-free (open) files. To date, the majority of galleys offered on NetGalley come with DRM; logically, since most publishers do not want pre-pub files distributed. More on this topic in a later post.

Why they like digital galleys

After quick access to new galleys, our members appreciate digital galleys for what they can provide that print galleys can’t: mainly,

  • Being able to “read on the go” (49%)
  • Searchability inside the galley (34%)
  • Full-color reading and images (25%)

In the age of immediacy, when news becomes old before it even makes it to print (thanks, Twitter!), being able to email a direct link to a digital galley is a pretty awesome tool in the publicist’s tool belt.

It also makes sense that the ease of skimming and searching digital galleys makes them attractive to professional readers who may not need to read the entire text – like TV/radio producers looking for experts and journalists writing off-the-book-page-features.

In addition, most professional readers don’t have early access to four-color pre-pub materials for illustrated and graphic-heavy books (like cookbooks, children’s titles, etc) – meaning that professional readers might not otherwise see these titles (or only see a few pages in BLADs) before they arrive in stores.

A Book Critic’s View

During a recent chat with book critic Bethanne Patrick (the host of WETA.org’s Book Studio, who we’ve interviewed in the past, known to her fellow tweeters as @TheBookMaven), I got a few more insights on the advantages of digital galleys. Bethanne said she loves how digital galleys allow her to preview a book, to see if she’d even want the printed galley. When bookshelf space is at a premium for reviewers, she appreciates getting an email from a publicist with a link to the digital galley that says “take a look and let me know if you want a printed galley.”

Bethanne also sees value in the one-stop-shopping aspect of NetGalley:

  • When she decides she wants a printed galley after viewing the digital version, she can just hit the EMAIL PUBLISHER button right in the title record in NetGalley.
  • She can also access the Digital Press Kit materials – where publishers can include the press release, tour schedule, author Q&A, audio/video clips, cover images, etc.
  • By sending her reviews to publishers via NetGalley, she hopes to appease publicists who still ask for tear-sheets of reviews.

Finally, Bethanne added that even when she had read an entire galley in printed form, she still liked to have a digital copy while writing her review. That way, she could quickly find a certain page or passage in a window alongside her review, without having to take off/put on her glasses while switching from the printed page to her computer screen. It’s the little things, right?

I’m excited that support of digital galleys is growing and—best of all—publishers and readers alike are finding new ways and reasons to appreciate the format.

As always, I’m open to any and all feedback – we love hearing from you!

All best,

Lindsey Rudnickas

your friendly Digital Concierge at NetGalley

Follow me on Twitter: @NetGalley

Become a fan of our Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/NetGalley

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The long-simmering question of how to elevate the status of women writers when it comes to major review coverage and awards drew scores of smart comments and many new faces in a rousing discussion on November 13, 2009, with the #followreader and #fembook hashtags on Twitter.

Intially prompted by the sidelining of important books by women from various year-end “best books” lists and awards, the #followreader #fembook conversation explored some reasons why women writers may be judged differently from men; which books by women rightly deserved major attention this year; and whether or not a women-only literary award might help draw greater attention to the best women writers in the U.S.

Tweets came fast and furious, leaving my guest, Bethanne Patrick (@thebookmaven), host of WETA’s The Book Studio and a National Book Critic’s Circle member, and me (@charabbott) — doing our best to keep up. By the end, many participants said they would like to revisit the topic, in a discussion focused on possible solutions to the problem…and not just for women’s history month!

For highlights from the #followreader #fembook conversation, keep scrolling.

Keeping Score on Women Writers

For those who are curious about the how women writers have been faring in the weeks since the #fembook discussion was first sparked by announcement of Publishers Weekly’s all-male Top Ten Best Books of 2009 and Amazon’s male-dominated Best Books for 2009, here are some updates.

No women writers won a National Book Award this year, but there were a number of very strong female finalists, including Bonnie Jo Campbell, who talks here about her novel American Salvage, and  Jayne Anne Phillips, who talks here about her novel Lark and Termite. In nonfiction, there was also Adrienne Mayor, who talks here about The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy.

On a much more encouraging note, four of the five novelists on the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” were women: Ceridwen Dovey, author of Blood Kin; C.E. Morgan, author of All the Living; Lydia Peele, author of The Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing; and Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

On Library Journal’s list of 31 Best Books, 11 were by women, or about one third of the list. That’s marginally higher than on the PW and Amazon long lists, where women were 30% and 25% of the total, respectively, as EarlyWord.com pointed out.

On the Atlantic magazine’s Best Books list, two women were on the list of the year’s top five writers (A.S. Byatt with The Children’s Book and Alison Light with Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury).  Nine women were on the Atlantic‘s long list of 25 authors, which amounts to a 36% showing for women. That’s the highest percentage of women on the Best Books lists we’ve seen.

EarlyWord also noted that there was little consensus between the “best books” on the Atlantic, PW and Amazon lists, except when it came to women. Interestingly, four books by women got the nod from two of the three lists – making them slightly more critically acclaimed than the books by men that appeared on only one list.  Here are the favored women:

  • Byatt, A.S., The Childrens Book — Amazon #88 and Atlantic Top Five
  • Davis, Lydia, Collected Stories — Amazon #56 and Atlantic Runner Up
  • Mantel, Hilary, Wolf Hall — Amazon #3 and Atlantic Runner Up
  • Munro, Alice, Too Much Happiness — Amazon #30 and Atlantic Runner Up

Highlights of the #Followreader #Fembook Discussion

 Why Do Men Get the Lion’s Share of the Critical Attention?

@thebookmaven: I interviewed Mary Gordon today, and she said “Notice WHO REVIEWS.” #fembook #followreader

@jenwgilmore I had a prof-and this was grad school-tell me women didn’t write big books. except ship of fools,and that was a mess! #followreader #fembook

@thebookmaven See? That prof and others like him are why I think we need to keep talking about this. #fembook #followreader

@CapitolClio No “domestic details” and the home = no 19th century literature. No Austen, Trollope, Thackeray. #fembook #followreader

@bookladysblog Reactions to work by Wally Lamb if he = female? #followreader #fembook

@charabbott When Roth and Updike write domestic novels, they are praised for their versatility! #fembook #followreader

@toofondofbooks Yeah, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU by Jon. Tropper is totally “family fiction!” #fembook #followreader

@bookladysblog What about THE CORRECTIONS. If that’s not family fiction… #fembook #followreader

@Wordlily Robert Morgan writes some family/domestic fic too. #fembook #followreader

@words_lover: The Corrections, East of Eden, Faulkner, Cheever – all “family fiction” #fembook #followreader

@Eugenia_Kim MEMOIRS GEISHA also interestngly compounded as Asian female story by White Male #fembook #followreader

@hmccormack Would be interesting to do male/female writer book pairings in book groups. See how common themes are handled #fembook #followreader

@hmccormack I, for instance, would pair Carson McCullers’ Heart Is a Lonely Hunter w/Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions & C Dung #fembook #followreader

Women and Awards

@charabbott Three women won the Nobel in last 6 years, but there were v. few U.S. reviews of Elfrede Jelenik’s work #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Also, I don’t see male critics and readers putting Jelenik, Lessing and Muller on their must-read lists. #fembook #followreader

@bostonbibliophl I’ve heard more ppl say Muller didn’t deserve to win than say kudos. #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven Those big wins…NOT IN THE U.S. — which is kind of why I’m here today. We need to woman up! #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Yes, the U.S. is far behind the UK and Canada, where many women contend for major awards every year. #fembook #followreader

@DavidRozansky: Many prize juries read manuscripts without names, race or gender, though. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Awards comms are mixed & still pick male aus -deeper issue is assumption that men are more important #fembook #followreader

@charabbott It’s the same on Twitter: men have more followers and RTs, even though Twitter is female-dominated. #fembook #followreader

@DavidRozansky Prize submissions should be stripped of author ID. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Elaine Showalter says that since 1850s, women have dominated US book market & men have had more literary esteem. #fembook #followreader

@Bookgirl96 I think it’s interesting, all this focus on prizes. They don’t seem to help book sales. #fembook #followreader

@batpoet What a great #followreader #fembook disc.! More women reviewers, bloggers, booksellers will help equalize too.

Would a Women’s Award Help?

@charabbott Would a prize for women writers like the Orange Prize in the UK help address this problem? #fembook #followreader

@charabbott I believe that this is part of the solution. #fembook #followreader

@Wordlily I’m loathe to think separate prizes are the best answer. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott I am genuinely surprised that we don’t have a national prize for women’s lit already. #fembook #followreader

@FlossieTeacake: Continuity now noticeable between Orange lists & other prizes later in the year (cough, Booker) #fembook #followreader

@charabbott But some worry that an award for women only, will ghettoize women’s writing #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven I have thought about that, about separate prizes reinforcing this gender gap. BUT! #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven I think in order to get past the gap, to jump over it for good, we may need a US women’s lit prize. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Let’s hear from those who don’t like the idea of a prize for women – why?

@Wordlily It could ghettoize female writers, & assumes they won’t win major prizes. May keep from winning “majors”? #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven It hasn’t done so for women in UK. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a point. Need to keep discussing. #fembook #followreader

@Wordlily Just that it’s separate, in some ways means not equal. #fembook #followreader

@jenwgilmore yet there’s a Jewish Book Award, Asian Book Award,etc. You think these bad? Anything to get bk noticed. #followreader #fembook

@Wordlily  I can def see US women’s lit prize as a potential part of the solution, but it can’t be the only thing. #fembook #followreader

@jenwgilmore although: I have felt ghettoized by the Jewish book stuff, but that’s a whole other thing. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Why can’t the two co-exist – effort to make existing awards more fair, and also prize for great women? #fembook #followreader

@myfriendamy Maybe separate prizes says….we realize you won’t acknowledge us but we aren’t going to be quiet #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Wouldn’t a women’s lit prize draw more attention to excellent women’s work, if judged by high standard? #fembook #followreader

@rosewhite22  ideally yes, but i think there’s the danger of it not being taken seriously, like we can’t compete #fembook #followreader

@charabbott If women’s writing is as good as men’s, why wouldn’t women’s award use same standards? #fembook #followreader

@Wordlily Hopefully the two efforts (natl women’s prize + changing system) can coexist. Just a danger, I think. #fembook #followreader

@charabbott Would look pretty bad if other prizes said, “Women have their own award now, we can ignore them!” #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven With prizes, we enhance visibility. Must know that a prize is simply that. More to be done. #fembook #followreader

@hollowaymcc: Wouldn’t a women’s prize be a natural step in “vertical” marketing? #fembook #followreader

Women to Read

Bookgirl96  Who would you pick as top 5 women writers today? #fembook #followreader

thebookmaven Thanks for asking! GREAT question. World, or US? #fembook #followreader

thebookmaven US: Toni Morrison, Lorrie Moore, Jayne Anne Phillips, Jane Smiley, Annie Proulx…that’s five, but NOT all!! #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven World: Hilary Mantel, Kiran Desai, A.S. Byatt, Elfriede Jelinek, Sarah Waters. #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven Also: I heart A.L. Kennedy. #fembook #followreader

@jillmwo Consider reading Joanna Russ’ excell work, How to Suppress Women’s Writing (http://bit.ly/20pR7l); #fembook #followreader [Changed my life]

@Bookgirl96 Two of my favorite female writers: Carol Shields and Susan Minot. #fembook #followreader

@janiceharayda Top 5 female writers not mentioned by others? Joan Didion, Nadine Gordimer, Wislawa Szymborska #fembook #followreader

@nicholemcgill Other female writers who rock: PD James, Marie Helene Poitras, Lynn Crosbie, Evelyn Lau… #fembook #followreader

@nicholemcgill More female writers who rock: @halseanderson, @pinkmeringue, @zoewhittall, Claudia Dey, Elina Hirvonen…#fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven I’d also like to recommend Kristoff/WuDunn HALF THE SKY to all of us here today. Great book about women. #fembook #followreader

Women’s Writing Stuffed in a Nutshell

@charabbott  I was an avid reader, but never read a black woman novelist until I got to college. #fembook #followreader

@jenwgilmore right,but I bet you’d read the Bell Jar. (great book, but reinforces women as crazy!) #followreader #fembook

@jenwgilmore The Bell Jar is totally great. But it’s an unstable woman story, that was my point.I’m a big Plath-head. #followreader #fembook

@SarahABA Today’s #followreader makes me appreciate all-female (by chance) AP Lit class and all-female (on purpose) college #fembook

@nicholemcgill I went to school post-sexual revolution and believe me, I am thankful! So all should be. #fembook #followreader

@Bookladysblog I think 1 problem is women’s fiction is automatically considered commercial. #fembook #followreader

@Bookgirl96 Very true. Hard to market a woman who writes literary fiction. #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven We shouldn’t! I think women are sometimes PUSHED towards those genres, consc or unconsc #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven  I think that in US, women often get diverted from developing as fiction writers. #fembook #followreader

@thebookmaven We are a Puritan nation; woman “taught” to do industrious things. Fiction can be cast as frivolous. #fembook #followreader

@adevries18 When do we get to blame (or praise) Oprah? #fembook #followreader

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Last Monday’s news that Publishers Weekly had excluded women from its Top Ten Best Books of 2009, and included only 29 women in its list of top 100 books of the year, met with incredulity, groans and outrage. On Twitter, the conversation quickly morphed into the #fembook hashtag, where participants suggested ways to challenge what some called a pervasive bias against women when it comes to major reviews and literary awards, particularly in a year that many consider a great year for books by women. 
Bethanne Patrick


For more on where the #fembook conversation led, keep scrolling.  Where will the conversation go next? That’s up to you!

Join me, Charlotte Abbott,  on Friday, November 13, from 4-5pm ET,  for a joint session of #FollowReader and #fembook, where we’ll discuss what can be done to elevate the status of women writers and books by women in a world where most authors, readers, book buyers and publishing staffers are women.

Our guest will be Bethanne Patrick (a.k.a. @thebookmaven), host of the Book Studio at WETA.org and moderator of #FridayReads (who we profiled here earlier this year).

#Fembook: A Hashtag is Born

Early last week on #fembook, book bloggers, critics, authors, publishing professionals and readers shared links to the Guardian (UK) story about how a new group called Women in Letters and Literary Arts  (WILLA) had confronted the PW announcement with an open letter of complaint and a wiki of great books published by women in 2009, and invited sympathizers to join its Facebook group (created when the group called itself WILA). Others noted that, lest we unfairly vilify PW, the magazine’s long list did include categories that are overlooked elsewhere, such as graphic format and mass market titles, as well as a number of writers of color.

Still others observed that the year-end picks by Amazon’s editors were also heavily weighted toward men, and that Fox TV host Glen Beck, an enthusiastic propnent of thrillers, rarely mentions any written by women. 

By last Wednesday, several book critics had weighed in on the #fembooks debate, including Politico’s Lizzie Skurnick and Salon’s Laura Miller, along with author Susan Steinberg, writing in the The Rumpus. The librarian blog Earlyword.com offered a helpful breakdown of the representation of women among the National Book Award finalists, as well as on Publishers Weekly‘s Best Children’s Books list, and among the year’s most popular books on Amazon. (Guess what? Women get more prizes for children’s books than adult books!)

By the end of the week, #fembook had become a fast-flowing conversation about great books by women published in 2009 – thanks to the announcement by #FridayReads moderator Bethanne Patrick that the two hashtags would join forces for an all-women’s edition of  the weekly #FridayReads book recommendation discussion.

For those interested in the #fembook discussion and title recommendations, here’s an archive of the complete conversation between November 5 and November 10.

And here are a few other commentaries, and efforts to elevate the status of women writers, that cropped up this week  – please let us know about any we’ve missed!

  • SheWrites Day of Action calls for women to write a blog post about PW’s exclusion of women from its Top 10 list, buy a book by a woman and take a photo of yourself holding it, and tell five women to do the same – by Friday, November 13, 2009.
  • Women Unbound Reading Challenge encourages people to read fiction and nonfiction by women. The challenge runs for a year, from November 1, 2009 to November 30, 2010.
  • In the latest podcast from Books on the Nightstand, Random House sales reps Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness present a lively examination of the books by women writers on their own shelves, and talk passionately about their all-time favorite woman-authored books.
  • In the Guardian, editor-turned-author Harriet Evans writes, “I’m fed up with seeing some of our best novelists written off as ‘chick lit’.”

To join the #followreader conversation on Friday, here’s what to do:

  1. Just before 4pm ET,  log in to Twitter or whatever interface you use (e.g. Tweetchat, Tweetdeck, Twitterific, etc.)
  2. To follow the discussion, run a search for #followreader
  3. I’ll start by asking Bethanne Patrick (@thebookmaven) a few questions, before opening up the discussion to the group.
  4. To post to the discussion, type #followreader in each tweet 

NOTE: You might want to experiment with TweetChat, which refreshes quickly and automatically loads your hashtag when you are in the discussion.

Looking forward to tweeting with you on Friday! 

Watch this space next week for a recap of the highlights. And please feel free to suggest topics for upcoming #followreader chats below.

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An important part of our mission at Follow the Reader is to connect book reviewers, book bloggers, media people,  booksellers and librarians on the Web – especially those interested in how the best aspects of the print and digital worlds might converge. So, to break the ice, we’re launching a series of profiles of community members who are abetting the cross-pollination of electronic and traditional print media.

“I would love to have become a Ron Charles [at the Washington Post] or Nick Owchar [at the Los Angeles Times], but I came along at the wrong time. Hence the Book Studio, where I’m creating my own online book review ‘section’ to edit.” –Bethanne Patrick

bethanne20patrickBethanne Patrick is an obvious choice to begin our series. An avid bridge-builder between print journalism, online book programming and TV, she is currently launching a pioneering blend of the three at The Book Studio, an outgrowth of WETA, a PBS/NPR affiliate in the Washington D.C. area. Over the past 12 years, Patrick has developed solid print credentials—most recently as a contributing editor at Publishers Weekly and as a member of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) who has reviewed books for the Washington Post and People magazine. She also currently hosts a weekly author forum at Barnes & Noble’s Center Stage, having cut her teeth launching AOL.com’s book channel from 2004-2007 (now defunct after layoffs). Each month, she also appears on TV to recommend books on New York One. As “The Book Maven,” Patrick is a regular presence on Twitter and in the book blogosphere,  and often participates in thoughtful exchanges with print editors and bloggers that can be tracked across the Web.

(Full disclosure: I am also a contributing editor at Publishers Weekly and an NBCC member – but met Patrick only very recently.)

“I’m a Late Bloomer with a Non-Linear Career”

A Smith College grad, Patrick nearly began her career as a publicity assistant at St. Martin’s Press, but turned down the offer when she became engaged to a West Point cadet whose first assignment was overseas. While her husband attended law school, she started graduate work in English with the intention to get a Ph.D. and teach, but when a college pal pointed out that she’d be happiest talking to people about books, Patrick recognized her true mission.

Like many women with growing families, she found that achieving that goal would involve some improvisation. While having two children and undertaking various moves, Patrick taught and freelanced as a writer for Army Times and Episcopal Life, and bought books by the carload whenever she found a good independent bookstore. Then, in 2001, she was hired as the first telecommuting editor for Pages magazine. Within another three years, she was working at America Online, then located near her home in Northern Virginia, where she launched the books channel. This year, she moved over to WETA.com’s The Book Studio, which offers a mix of book reviews and author interviews in prose and audio formats, including an audio interview with Michael Pollan that will run May 15.

The following conversation – which ranges from the lessons of launching online book sites, to what publishers can do better, to the distinctions between bloggers and book reviewers – took place earlier this week via instant messaging.

The Book Studio at WETA.com

Charlotte Abbott: You are a book reviewer who is pioneering a new online arena for books on the website for a radio and TV station. Does that mean you’re threatening to the status quo every way you turn?

Bethanne Patrick:  Unfortunately, that’s true. I wish we weren’t, but people find it scary to see something new. I will say that the AUTHORS are incredibly happy, grateful and thrilled – but I want READERS to feel the same way. The Book Studio has only been live for a few weeks, and so far, the time on-site stats are very, very good. People are stopping by and staying for a while.

CA: How do you keep the higher-ups at ease?

BP: I tend to be quite a people-pleaser, so why not let that work for me?

CA: But how do you avoid accommodating others so much that you lose opportunities you can see clearly but others can’t?

BP: I did lose some opportunities in the past, but no longer –I’m really focused now on what my strengths are. I know that I want to review and interview. I’d like to be the next Charlie Rose – though that sounds so arrogant. I may not get there! But that is a great goal: to be the online Charlie Rose.

CA: It sounds pretty good to me.

BP:  Some people say to me: “Oh, be more hip than that!” But I believe that books will remain the best way for people to express complex ideas.

CA: Well, we can be sure you will have better hair!

BP: I promise better hair…even if I have more chins!

CA:  What needs to happen for online book forums to assume the preeminence that Charlie has on late night TV for the intellectual set?

BP:  I think we need to include the enthusiasm that people have for talking about books. Maybe we need a book group chat show, a smart one. At the Book Studio, we plan to experiment at some point with group videos -e.g., me and other reviewers, me and a bunch of authors in one genre.

CA: How will you handle reviews?

BP:  Eventually we’ll have both professional reviewers (e.g., Oberlin professor Anne Trubek, Preservation editor Sudip Bose, and more) AND community reviewers. We also want to make sure people will see great book blogs that they might like, where they can go for more of a particular type of conversation, and also circle back to our site for interviews, spotlight reviews, etc.

The Lessons of AOL

CA:  What was your biggest lesson at AOL? 

BP: First: I could talk with readers any time I wanted. But: I didn’t want to chat with just anyone. I wanted to talk to really smart, informed people. I am not trying to be cruel or disrespectful to those who have found their bliss in online chats/book message boards. I just wasn’t interested in chaff at all; I wanted to go straight to the wheat.

CA: Was there a lot of trial and error in launching the book channel?

BP: Oh, yeah. At first, I tried to make things a little too library-like. I had to get into the AOL groove and tuck the intellectual things in between celeb author interviews. That’s why you’ll still find lots of Google hits with me and Heidi Klum!

CA: Did you work with the forums?

BP: In retrospect, I wish I’d worked more with the AOL book forums. There was a lot of power and passion there. But, in my defense, I was actually discouraged from doing so, since the emphasis during my three years at AOL was on original content. (The emphasis shifts at AOL a lot.) I was working hard on developing a voice for my blog and on figuring out how to get publishers’ content fed into our environment.

CA: What was the impact?

BP: My biggest lesson from the community at AOL was that a lot of people will buy a lot of books if you connect them to the content. My most successful examples were two very different books: Mark Leyner’s Why Do Men Have Nipples? and David Friend’s Watching the World Change: 9/11 in Photographs. Show people some content in an engaging way and then give them an immediate opportunity to buy a book and you get big wins, all around. But it has to be in a media context; otherwise, consumers feel too manipulated. (Yes, of course, we’re all being manipulated all the time.)

CA:  Do you mean you created a context for these books related to daily headlines?

BP: Yes, that was the most important thing: to relate to either a headline or a search item. I could have spent my entire AOL career just on Harry Potter, LOL!

CA: Were you ever able to exercise your sensibility as someone with an MA in medieval lit?

BP:  Yes! HarperCollins published a fun little book about 100 Most Famous People Who Never Lived—not just characters from lit, but characters from myth, advertising, etc. Very fun for general public and also for academics, because of the lit connections. My boss said, “Don’t do this, it’s a loser. No one cares about fictional characters,” but I put together a photo gallery with fun text and it was a HUGE win: one million unique page views. Sold a lot of books, too!

CA: How satisfying.

BP:  There is room online for a convergence of commercial success and intelligence. I believe that, or I wouldn’t keep doing what I’m doing.

What Publishers Can Do Better

CA:  From your perspective, what do publishers need to do better, to adapt to the proliferation of bloggers, e-galleys, multiple book platforms, etc.?

BP:  First step: Every publisher needs a PR person for new media, NOT just an online marketing manager. Any publisher whose main PR people are stuck in print/broadcast past should move on. Even TV these days has online components! Second: publishers need to understand that there IS a difference between amateur book bloggers and professional review bloggers like Sarah Weinman, Ed Champion, Mark Sarvas, and me, on my best days.

CA:  How do you differentiate the roles of PR vs. online marketing?

BP: PR people are better at building pre-pub buzz, which is still important. Online marketing people are sometimes good at it — but they’re still better at post-pub marketing.

Book Reviewers vs. Bloggers

CA: What’s the difference between amateur and pro book bloggers – can you spell it out?

BP:  I recently read a so-called “review” on an amateur’s site that was little more than a plot summary, with  an “I loved it,” and a link to a giveaway. That’s lovely and very accessible–but it is NOT a review. A review can be 100% positive, but it still has to give you some analysis, some depth, some peek into WHY the book matters.

CA:  Right, but isn’t there a place for enthusiasts in spreading their enthusiasm for books?

BP:  There is definitely a place for enthusiasts! They are hand-selling books; they are voracious readers and very loyal.

CA: As bloggers and book reviewers converge through electronic media, will only the fittest of each group survive, or can they expand the audience for books if they work together?

BP: A great question, since I am an example of that convergence. As a reviewer, I want legitimacy, standards, a community. I still believe in that, and still believe that the NBCC matters. Which is why I want to drag it kicking and screaming into the online world!

CA:  Yet you seem to very encouraging to book bloggers – judging by your comments and participation on various blogs.

BP: I am, because I think that hearing from people who do adhere to NBCC standards will help them look at those standards, too. Also, nothing’s wrong with MORE talk about books, as long as we all understand that there are still some delineations.

CA: Like between those who write for pay and those who write for free?

BP:  As I’ve said on Twitter, I’ve always been paid for blogging – which makes me suspect to the litblogging community. And I’ve blogged for a long time, which makes me suspect to the NBCC.

CA: How do you think those tensions can be resolved?

BP:  I think they’re all based on fear–that a paid blogger isn’t upholding indie standards, that a blogger of any type can’t uphold critical standards—but neither fear is justified.

CA: So it’s a matter of getting people to look past the format (e.g. blogs or print) to see the quality of the content?

BP: Yes.

CA: Of course, blogs also offer all kinds of fascinating content development opportunities – and self publishing opportunities.

BP:  Yes. That’s why bloggers need to be rigorous about what their goals are.

CA: Thanks for sharing your insights, Bethanne! Best of luck, and please keep us posted on how it goes at The Book Studio.

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