Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ARCs and Relationship Building

There was a great panel on ARCs at ALA this year. I was unable to attend because of a committee meeting, but presenters Liz B and Kelly have some great recaps of what they covered.

While I was at ALA there are a few ARCs I was really excited about to pick up. Some were BIG ones, some were novels I didn't know existed but was excited to see.

A comment on Kelly's post struck me though-- a midlist author was very worried about handing out "a lot" of ARCs at a smaller local conference and that every ARC = a lost sale. Which made me think about how I use ARCs.

There's a lot in how librarians use ARCs behind the scenes--blogging about them, sharing them amongst ourselves to build internal buzz that we can then turn to external buzz, etc.

But I think many authors worry about when we share ARCs with teens. When we give this unfinished copy away to non-professionals, what are we doing, and why?

Relationship building. It's all about relationship building, and that's important for teens, and it's important for book sales.

Many people question why libraries have video games programs for teens. (Bear with me--this'll get back to ARCS). At my last library, we had a group of teen guys who used to hang out at the library all the time. They didn't necessarily like the library, but it was a place to be with computers and air-conditioning. They weren't horribly behaved, but they weren't model library users, either. We often had to remind them to keep their voices down, to not run, to turn down their music (it would bleed through their headphones and I could hear it 30 feet away.) The gaming program (1) gave them something to do. It made things a lot nicer for everyone because it gave them their own space, and a place were they could play and be a noisier and, etc. (2) Relationship building.

I had to cover the gaming program one day. I played against the boys. I engaged in some competitive trash talk, and I won big on Wii bowling. And EVERYTHING changed. They saw me totally different after that. The next day, they stopped by to say hi and make some small talk when they got to the library. When they got loud and I had to remind them to quiet down, instead of arguing with me about it, as soon as they saw me walk up they said "Oh no Miss Jennie! Did we get too loud? We're sorry!" And then they stayed quiet. Winning certainly helped, but the main thing was that I tried.

So, what does that have to do with ARCs? Everything. When you have an actual relationship with teens, everything's easier.

Let's take what happens when there's a big book. At ALA, I picked up an ARC of Cress. The Lunar Chronicles are very popular with my teens and this one doesn't come out until February. Sharing this ARC with my teens now builds excitement for the series (because the few that get to read it will talk it up for the next 6 months.) But the fact that I could get an early copy of the book is BIG in their eyes. It's almost like a magical power. And suddenly, they realize that I know my stuff. I have major street cred. It gives me instant trust in the world of books. If I'm cool enough to get an early copy of something like Cress, maybe my other book suggestions are worth listening to. It's instant relationship building.

And what about ARCs of smaller releases? Just as important, for different reasons. There's something special about an early copy, even if it's of a book by an author you've never heard of. I can get teens to take a chance on a book or author they don't know if it's an early copy. It's a great way for midlist authors to gain new fans. And fans that come to something from an ARC tend to be the most vocal about it. They'll tell EVERYONE. When the actual copy comes in, they're the ones who will pull it off the shelf and shove it into someone's hands. If they like it, the teens who read it in ARC form will be the biggest cheerleaders for the finished product.

And what about relationship building?

For the big release book, the library is going to buy that anyway. We don't really need the ARC to make a purchasing decision. The midlist book though, we may or may not get. We have to look at that one more closely to see if it's something we think our teens will like. We let the teens read the ARC and then demand feedback. Is it any good? Will it circulate? Should we get it? Should we get 1 copy for the system, or a copy for every branch? Not only is that feedback crucial for us, but it empowers the teens. It gives them a say in their collections, it lets them know that we take them and their ideas seriously. It's a pretty easy way to really show them that we respect them.

And, if they know that we respect them and their ideas, they're much more likely to respect us and our ideas.

And we become trusted adults. And the more trusted adults a teen has in his or her life, the stronger safety net he or she has, and the chances of success in life become that much greater.

In a reader's advisory context, this is crucial. We don't have to work as hard to hand-sell a book. If we already have a relationship, they're much more likely to take a chance on something.

Here's the ultimate outcome-- I had a teen at my old branch. Over the years, we had built a strong relationship. It got to the point where I could just hand her a book and say "you should read this." And she would. I didn't have to tell her what it was about. It didn't have to be in her favorite genre or format-- it could be something completely different than what she would normally pick up. And she'd read it. And if she liked it-- watch out. If she liked it, she would hand-sell it to everyone. There were midlist, backlist titles that were about to be weeded out of the collection because they didn't circ. I had a very strong relationship with her and could give them to her. The ones she liked? She could spread the word so effectively that instead of weeding the title, we bought additional copies.

There's a lot of work that goes into building a relationship like that. ARCs won't instantly create it, but they're a very helpful tool, in more ways that many people realize.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Exclusive Editions = Bad News for Libraries

Today Ally Carter announced that if you buy a hardcover edition of United We Spy from Barnes and Noble, you'll get an exclusive epilogue. It's only available from Barnes and Noble, and only in print (it won't be in the Nook version.)

My first thought was all about me-- I tend to chafe at being told where I HAVE to buy something. I buy at several different book sellers, but I don't have that option for this one. Plus, Ms. Carter has done several events with Politics and Prose bookstore (my local indie fav.) over the years-- how much does this screw them (and other indies) over?

But my second thought was for the library users. And I tweeted back that exclusive content like is a bummer for libraries and the people who use them.

Ms. Carter tweeted back

Ah. Yes. Libraries can choose to buy that edition. Which highlights some stuff a lot of people don't know about the backroom workings for libraries.

I tweeted back:

After tweeting that, I did some research to get some numbers. Buying the exclusive Barnes and Noble edition at a brick and mortar store would probably cost list price-- $17.99. Ordering online is currently $14.29.

But libraries don't buy from bookstores. Libraries buy from distributors-- the same people who sell to bookstores. And for a new YA hardcover, libraries typically spend $9.01. So yes, a library could choose to buy the exclusive edition. If they do it at the store, though, it's twice as expensive. Libraries could get 1 copy of the exclusive edition, or they could get 2 copies of the regular one (or 1 of the regular, and a copy of something else entirely.) If libraries order online, it's a bit cheaper, but it's still significantly more expensive. (Libraries can buy 1.5 hardcover books for the price of the Barnes and Noble version if they order online.)

In this time of super-tight budgets, that's not a hard decision to make.

But, it's also not a decision that can be made-- most libraries are government entities. Most governments have very strict rules about who you're allowed to do purchasing from-- this is why no-bid contracts are always a local scandal. So, even if libraries had the money to spend on the exclusive edition, many are not allowed to buy books from anyone outside their regular vendor.

So yeah, it's not actually a choice. Libraries do not have access to this content.

Which means that the only way teens can get this is if they can get their own copy at Barnes and Noble. Which means they need access to a Barnes and Noble (to read in the aisle or purchase) or a credit card (to buy online).

I spent almost 7 years working in an underserved community. We had a TON of Gallagher Girl fans who used my library. Many came from homes that, even if they had the extra money to buy a book, they didn't have a credit card to do it. The closest Barnes and Noble is only 4 miles away, but it's across state lines. To get there on public transport will take 70 minutes, will cost $7.90 and involves walking half a mile, two buses and two trains.

So... it's not really an option for them.

Ms. Carter's response was to my above tweet was:

Yep, it's an extra. A bonus. One that libraries can't offer their users. One that only certain fans can dream of having access to. (Ok, let's be honest-- it's one that is just begging to be downloaded illegally. I'm against that professionally and personall, but in cases like this, I do understand it.)

So, here was the last tweet of the conversation:

I feel like a jerk for calling Ms. Carter out like this because it's not like Gallagher Girls is the first series to do this. And I'm pretty sure a lot of the decisions were done by agents and publishers, not by her personally. (And because of the politics of how national chain bookstores work, Barnes and Noble in particular, there's probably a lot at play here to get better display space and placement for all Disney-Hyperion books or other considerations.)

I'm a huge fan of her work, and I once had a lovely conversation with her at a Printz reception here in DC a few years ago and she was really nice and wonderful.

But when I talk about the teens who can't access this exclusive content, they're not hypothetical. I'm talking about specific people. I have faces and names in my head as I write this.

Exclusives like this might be good for bookstores and publishers, but they're pretty shitty for actual teen readers.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Holy or the Broken

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this the fourth, the fifth,
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You'll say I've took the name in vain,
But I don't even know the name,
But if I did, well, really what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong,
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" Alan Light.

It’s the song that’s always playing in the background when a movie or TV show is sad. It’s the one that everyone always sings when auditioning for American idol. But when “Hallelujah” came out in the early 80s, it was a forgotten track on an album the label refused to release. As soon as it was recorded, Leonard Cohen started changing the words.

But then John Cale covered it on a Leonard Cohen tribute album (Cale’s version is the one at the end of Shrek) and then Jeff Buckley learned the Cale version and worked it into his set (his version is the one from West Wing.)

Cale and Buckley mashed together the original version and Cohen’s new version. The lyrics I quote above are the original version-- pay attention to the last two verses, as they're often not sung anymore. I think Cohen is the only one who does that last verse.

Everyone sings it. They sing different versions. They take different meanings. It’s holy and profane at the same time and, despite the fact it’s overdone, it’s still a damn good song.

Light does a great job of tracing the history of the song and how it suddenly exploded into this major thing, while at the same time examining how and why we respond to it and why it works so well in so many different contexts.

Bonus-- QR codes in the back take you to all the different versions discussed in the book-- VERY helpful.

Side Note-- I had forgotten the audio details of Cohen’s original version. I listen to a lot of Cohen, but mostly his earlier stuff. Oh my, I had forgotten the synthesizers in all of his stuff from the 80s. THE SYNTHESIZERS. Listening to the version on Various Positions (and then the entire Various Positions album) and I was immediately back in the backseat of my parents car. It was crazy.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Today's Little Ditty.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Clementine and the Spring Trip

Clementine and the Spring Trip Sara Pennypacker

It’s Spring! It’s Spring! Margaret is happy because that means Spring Cleaning. Clementine is happy because that means field trip.

But Clementine’s field trip may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Clementine thought she’d be ok even though the 4th graders have RULES about silent eating. Margaret is in 4th grade and they’ll be partners-- Margaret knows all about silent eating and Clementine can do all the dirty stuff.

But then Olive comes. Olive doesn’t mind having a food name. Olive has her own language, but Clementine can’t figure it out, unlike the other kids. Olive doesn’t understand about silent eating and then Clementine’s required to be her partner! What will she do now?

Oh Clementine, still such a great series! I love Margaret and her excitement over spring cleaning and her horror at dirt floors (how do you sweep a dirt floor to keep it clean? It’s dirt!)

I also really like that Clementine’s mom is still pregnant and she and her dad are still working on the table--it really shows the long-range time of these projects.

I also really liked her reaction to Olive-- Clementine’s really taken aback that Olive doesn’t mind having a food name the same way she does. And when Olive’s secret language takes off and Clementine can’t manage it-- hoo boy. Clementine gets jealous. It’s a really well-done plot line.

All in all, I still love this series and can’t wait for the next installments!

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Little White Duck

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China Na Liu, illustrated by Andres Vera Martinez

So, I may have been a little over-excited about this one. There aren't a lot of books about post-Mao, pre-Tiananmen China. Let alone for kids. Let alone in comic book form. Na Liu was a small child when Mao died and everything changed. In a series of short stories, she shows glimpses of her childhood, comparing it with how her parents grew up during the Great Leap Forward and Great Famine. In one memorable story, she accompanies her father to his country home and sees how privileged her life really is. This will be enlightening to American readers, as Na Liu's life isn't easy compared to modern American standards-- I don't know of any America schools where kids are assigned the duty of killing rats, and have to bring in the tails as proof.

That said, I wanted more. I wanted more context and more history for these stories. I don't think that will turn off of confuse the intended audience-- if nothing else more context might overwhelm the younger readers this is aimed at. There's enough her to understand what's happening, and I think it's great for children. But, as an adult reader, I did want something more than a few childhood vignettes--especially because this is a time period SO unexplored across all age-ranges, formats, and genres. It's a great book for kids, but it left me a little underwhelmed.

Today's Nonfiction Monday is over at Abby (the) Librarian.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.