The Book Smugglers Present… Tips for Writing Reviews

We asked trusted experts to share with our community their top tips when it comes to writing book reviews. Thea James, co-founder of The Book Smugglers, was generous to contribute her tips and join us during our live-webcast (which you can watch here) to speak directly to our members about writing reviews. Continue reading for Thea’s tips, and make sure to watch the webcast at your convenience to hear Thea expand on her suggestions below, and to hear from other experts!

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1. Be Genuine
Your natural tone is your most powerful tool and signature as a reviewer

2. Vomit ALL THE FEELS
Genuine emotion builds your voice and audience (see #1)

3. Make Yourself Write (aka Be Consistent)
There aren’t enough hours in the day, but setting up a routine will help keep things on track.

4. Figure out your ideal template (and replicate it)
Summary + Characters + Things that Worked/Didn’t Work + Overall Rating

5. Experiment with structure/format/syntax
Playing around with the key elements or traditional representation of reviews can engage readers in a major way

6. Use Examples
Use quotes or other examples directly from the text to back up your review—it makes your review stronger, and gives readers a first-hand opinion

7. Know Yourself 
Sometimes the review just isn’t there (yet)—know when to step back, or push onward

8. HAVE FUN
Because who wants to read something laborious and  written out of obligation!?

Click here to watch the full webcast, where Thea (co-founder of The Book Smugglers) expands on the tips above, and is joined by other review experts & read our other informational Recipes for Success articles!

To connect with The Book Smugglers visit their website, twitter, facebook, and tumblr!

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Scavenger Hunt for Week #4

Being the first to discover a new book is one of the greatest joys of a Book Advocate, so as part of the NetGalley Challenge, we’re hosting a special scavenger hunt… particularly interested may be fans of World War Z and The Martian. Starting at 10am EDT today (Tuesday, August 25th) we will release a new clue right here every hour, on the hour, that will all lead you to a particular title on NetGalley.com. Once you’ve discovered the title, and have filled in the form below, you will be eligible to win an awesome prize from a publisher!

To be eligible for the prize, you must: The Scavenger Hunt has concluded – thanks for everyone who participated!
1) Share the NetGalley Challenge badge (available in your NetGalley account).
2) Watch our blog for clues, and as soon as you’ve discovered the title, fill out this form with the answer.
3) Keep the answer to yourself! We ask that the title remain a mystery to those who have not successfully deciphered the clues – this will help increase your chances of winning the prize!
*If you do reveal the answer on your blog, social media, etc. you will be disqualified from this and all other Challenge prize opportunities.

On Friday, August 28th, we will notify 5 random entrants (who have correctly filled in the form, and have shared the Challenge badge) that they have won the sponsored prize!

Clues:
#1: Let’s start by talking about the author: This author is fluent in French, English, and… Ewok.
#2: This author is a brilliant linguist with a sense of humor and has a penchant for building robots in his spare time (including an R2-D2 replica).
#3: This book was originally going to be self-published, but an early review got this title discovered by a big publisher.
#4: Film rights for this book have already been optioned, and the screenplay is being written by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Spiderman, Mission: Impossible).
#5: This book was originally titled “The Themis Files.”
#6: Last clue! One of the trade reviews called this book “A page-turner of the highest order.”

And the answer to this week’s Scavenger Hunt is….
Continue reading “Scavenger Hunt – Week #4”

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Bookseller_spotlight

We’re excited to welcome Lexi Beach, co-owner of the Astoria Bookshop in Queens, NY as our featured bookseller. Lexi is a NetGalley member, an American Booksellers Association member, and just celebrated the Astoria Bookshop’s 2-year anniversary! Keep reading to discover how Lexi became a bookseller, what upcoming books she’s excited about, and her tips for writing in-store recommendations!

Astoria Bookshop logo

A nice place to start is with your bookseller origin story – how did you become the co-owner of the Astoria Bookshop?

I had been working in various areas of book publishing for almost 10 years before I thought about opening a store. At the time, I was in a job that was increasingly a poor fit, and I started hearing from friends & colleagues in Astoria that the neighborhood needed a bookstore. I started asking other bookstore owners about their work, trying to figure out if this would be a viable next step in my career. And the more I learned, the more it seemed like a great idea. And then I got laid off from the job I didn’t want anymore, which gave me the chance to pursue the plan for real. That was three years ago, and I’m celebrating 2 years in business this week.

The Astoria Bookshop opened in 2013 in Queens, NY in a neighborhood (and borough!) without any indie bookstores – how has your shop been received by the community? Do you host any special events that have encouraged a relationship with those in your area?

The community has been incredibly supportive of the Bookshop since well before we opened our doors. We ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign, we had people offer to help us move bookcases & shelve books before we opened, and we had repeat customers after one day. We host two reading series that are curated by local writing groups, we’ve held lots of readings with Queens-based authors, we run book fairs at many nearby schools, we offer writing workshops led by writers who live in the neighborhood, and we’ve partnered with some local organizations for events of all kinds.

Your store sells physical books and also ebooks – what led you to make the decision to carry both formats? Do you think it has helped contribute to your success thus far?

Indiecommerce (the ecommerce solution offered to ABA member stores) makes carrying ebooks very easy, using the Kobo platform. I’m very happy that I can offer my customers a choice of format, but the sales of ebooks are minimal to say the least. The vast majority of our sales are physical books sold in the store.

We talk a lot about various communities, especially when it comes to those who love and advocate for books – have you found the indie bookseller community unique in any particular way? Has anything surprised you since you’ve opened your store?

Indie booksellers are the best people in the world. Every time I go to an industry event, or meet up with my colleagues, I walk away feeling like I invited myself into the greatest club on the planet and everyone welcomed me with hugs & kisses & industry data.

As a bookseller, do you have any tips for writing customer-facing recommendations that appear in-store, perhaps on a shelftalker?

  • Keep it short – The goal of a shelftalker is to get someone to pick up the book. You don’t need to tell them the whole plot.
  • Make it personal – Shelftalkers are written by real people, not a computer algorithm. A personal anecdote can be especially helpful. (I recount how I read the final chapter of The World According to Garp while driving myself to work because I couldn’t bear to put it down. True story.)
  • Change them up – Just like you would change up a display table, it can help to rotate shelftalkers in and out. If your staff is very small, recruit local authors or librarians to write some for you so that the suggestions are more varied.

Which upcoming book(s) are you the most excited about recommending to your customers?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is definitely my adult fiction pick for fall. I read it two months ago and I STILL can’t shut up about how great it is. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash is a wonderful YA graphic memoir that I’m very excited about. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson is insanely funny.

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Lightning Round! 

If you could bring 1 author into your bookstore for a special event, who would it be?  
Since we already hosted a reading with Roxane Gay, next on the wish list is Lev Grossman.

Your favorite aspect of The Astoria Bookshop:  
Our customers. They are just incredible—so generous, so savvy, so cool.

The book you’ve hand-sold the most lately:

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me
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The last book that made you smile:

Mitford at the Fashion Zoo, a picture book about a giraffe who wants to work in the fashion industry.

Thanks so much to Lexi and make sure to visit the Astoria Bookshop’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
You can see more tips for writing reviews here – and booksellers, don’t forget to add your ABA number to your NetGalley profile so you can start receiving the free Digital White Box!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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This week’s live-event was a big success! Check out the video if you couldn’t watch it live, and a big thanks to Berkley/NAL for being the official sponsor. To gain tips and insights for writing reviews and recommendations from industry experts just click below – and let us know your favorite tips in the video comments section or on Twitter @NetGalley.

Happy watching and reading!

Tarah Theoret
Community Manager, NetGalley

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Week #2 of the NetGalley Challenge ended with a bang, thanks to you! We’re so close to 5,000 Challenge participants, so be sure to invite your fellow Book Advocates to participate – the best is yet to come! The next three weeks will include our live-event, and exclusives & prizes from publishers, so keep a close eye on your inbox.

Activities from this week you won’t want to miss: 
  • Read our article “Why Book Reviews Matter & How to Write Them” for insights and tips.
  • Show some Cover Love and check out our favorites for August, as well as the cover most-loved by NetGalley members. Tell us your favorite that’s on NetGalley right now in the comments, and it could be included in next month’s edition!
  • Proof #BookAdvocates are everywhere! Join the conversation and keep sharing your reasons @NetGalley. We’ll feature our favorites throughout the Challenge.
  • Sign up for our online event on August 18th! You can attend live, or receive the recording afterwards to watch at your convenience. (Update: Watch the recording here!)

If you’re new to the Challenge:

  • Welcome! Visit Challenge headquarters for updates and exclusives.
  • Spread the love! Share this post with your favorite Book Advocate so they can also benefit from upcoming tips, events, and giveaways.

Stay tuned for more next week. Till then, happy reading!

Tarah Theoret
Community Manager, NetGalley

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We asked our community what behaviors make them Book Advocates & the responses are great! Here is a sampling of the ways NetGalley members help books succeed!


Tell us what makes you a #BookAdvocate, in the comments below, on Twitter or Facebook and you could be featured too!

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Library Reads

LibraryReads List

September 2015

LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in September that librarians across the country love. You can request the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site

If you are a librarian, you can nominate titles for the LibraryReads list via NetGalley!

Additional LibraryReads titles, not currently available on NetGalley:

The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
ISBN 9780062390547

The Scribe by Matthew Guinn
ISBN 9780393239294

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Cover Love

August Edition

Fall is on the horizon, and we’re excited to share some beautiful covers to help you on your way toward a cozy fireplace! This month YOUR most loved cover is THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp.

Click on each cover to read the full description, request the title, and “Like” the cover if you haven’t already. If you’ve already read these titles don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your social network.

Tell us on Twitter (and use #BookAdvocate) or below in the comments, which covers you’re loving right now, and they could be included in next month’s Cover Love!

Henery Press

Pub Date Oct 13, 2015

Leto Media

Pub Date Jun 3, 2015

HMH Books for Young Readers

Pub Date Sep 1, 2015

Rosarium Publishing

Pub Date Sep 15, 2015

Sourcebooks Fire

Pub Date Jan 5, 2016

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The NetGalley Challenge had an impressive first week!

Just over 3,500 NetGalley members proudly shared the Book Advocate badge to declare their commitment to helping books succeed and to start receiving exclusive access to activities, resources, and prizes.

Activities from week #1 you won’t want to miss:
  • Visit Challenge “headquarters” for updates and exclusives!
  • Read our interview with Sara Grochowski, of The Hiding Spot blog. Find out which Middle Grade books you should be reading, and learn how the power of blogging also helps Sara as a bookseller.
  • Sign up for our online event on August 18th! You can attend live, or receive the recording afterwards to watch at your convenience. (Update: Watch the recording!)
  • Declare what makes you a #BookAdvocate (our suggestions) by posting to Twitter or Facebook. Tag @NetGalley and we’ll feature your post on our blog!
  • Forward this link to your friends and colleagues who may benefit from the Challenge (including tips for writing reviews and guest posts from fellow professional readers!)

Keep an eye out for what we have in store for you next week!

Tarah Theoret
Community Manager, NetGalley

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Hiding Spot
Blog URL: http://thehidingspot.blogspot.com
Your name: Sara Grochowski

What genre(s) does your blog focus on?

All genres and ages from pictures books through Young Adult and even the occasional the adult novel with crossover appeal.

Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?

In my experience, it seems like most reluctant readers want to read, they’re just overwhelmed (often by the size of the book or the amount of text) or they haven’t been offered a book that fits their interests. So, in that regard, there’s a specific book for each reluctant reader! A few books that I find myself recommending again and again are The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett, The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann, and Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntryre. I also regularly recommend graphic novels for reluctant readers; recently El Deafo and Roller Girl have been my favorites!

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How long have you been blogging about books and why did you start?

I’ve been blogging about books for nearly 8 years now! Originally, I started my blog as a kind of online journal to keep track of what I was reading and as a way to meet fellow book addicts lovers. I’m from a very small town and I didn’t know very many other people who were passionate about reading… or reading socially, which is what book blogging feels like to me. I love to talk about books and blogging provided a perfect platform for that. Granted, I never imagined I would be doing it this long or that I would make so many great friends along the way!

You are also a Children’s & YA Literature Specialist at Brilliant Books, can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

Oh, gosh, where do I start? Perhaps I’ll just touch on the biggest aspects of my job. I do the buying for the picture book, chapter book, and middle grade, and YA sections of the store, choose all of the Brilliant Books Monthly picks for Kids and YA subscribers, and assist teachers and librarians with grant research, selecting books to fulfill grant requirements, finding books to fit into curriculum, fill gaps in library collections, etc. I’m also responsible for displays within those sections. And, of course, I spend a lot of time talking to young readers and adults searching for the perfect book. My favorite aspect of my job isn’t anything that I do, it’s the feedback and interactions that I’m able to have with young readers. Like the time a boy and I bonded over shared love of Rohan Gavin’s Knightley and Son – which he read while in London!! – and then he recommended me a handful of books to read. Or any time a reader comes back and tells me that a book I recommend is their new favorite. Those moments are the absolute best!

Do you feel that your role as a blogger and as a bookseller impact and/or influence each other?

Definitely! I feel like my role as a blogger actually makes me more aware of which books are going to be well received by readers, which has an impact on buying decisions for the store. If I see fellow bloggers whose opinions I value and respect raving about an upcoming book, I know that it’s likely something special. Similarly, if a book isn’t being well received and I wasn’t already interested in it, I’ll likely give it less attention. At the same time, being a bookseller has affected me as a blogger in that I’m more conscious of what readers are looking for and struggling to find. When a reader tells me that he loves books like The Thickety and asks for readalikes, I’ll end up writing a post featuring the books I recommended! My blog may have started as a reading journal, but now it’s my hope that fellow readers see it as a resource.

Are there certain questions you usually ask when trying to match someone with a book?

Do you like books that are set in the real world or in fantasy worlds? How old are you? Do you like books that make you laugh? What was the last book you read? Did you like it? Tell me three of your favorite books. Tell me a book that you didn’t like at all. Books readers dislike are just as telling as books they love!

Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue by Jess Keating, Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo, and Beastly Bones by William Ritter. The last one is technically YA, but it’s a great pick for Middle Grade readers who are reading well above level. Ritter’s books have great plots and pacing, but aren’t inappropriate for younger readers.

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Lightning Round!

If you could interview 1 author, who would it be?

Melina Marchetta.

Your favorite Storytime book to read:

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat. (Then we make Beekle crowns to wear home!)

Your blog in 2 sentences:

Honest and passionate book recommendations for all ages from a lifelong reader and bookpusher. Plus author interviews, cover reveals, and giveaways!

Your bookstore in 2 sentences:

Brilliant Books is the nation’s Long Distance, Local Bookstore. We deliver personal service, expert selections, and efficient, no cost shipping across the USA. (Okay, I admit it – this is from our website, but I couldn’t say it any better myself!)

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

Bonnie Sue-Hitchcock. Her debut novel, The Smell of Other People’s Houses comes out next Spring and it is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read. Her writing is gorgeous and her characters have burrowed deep into my heart and head. I want to press this book into the hands of readers everywhere. And if by something stiffer you mean a latte with 5 shots of espresso so that we can keep up our energy while talking books, we’re on the same page!

cartoon sara grochowski Thanks so much for spending some time with us and answering our questions Sara!
Please make sure to check out The Hiding Spot and stay tuned for our next Blogger Spotlight! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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