Daily Archives: July 15, 2010

And a Writing Challenge to go with Cheryl’s Fab Blog

Bookseller vs. Reader

How would someone in the vaguest terms describe your book (enough details that a bookseller could possibly identify it).


Give us a vague description of a childrens or teen book and see if we can figure it out.


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This is Cheryl’s fab blog that for some reason didn’t post yesterday: Why Kid and Young Adult Bookstores Will Never Go 100% Digital

Part One:

In this installment, I want to discuss the .com issue…both Amazon and the websites of physical bookstores. In next week’s installment, I’ll discuss ebooks.

So….the websites. Let’s face it—they’re convenient. And cheaper. No overhead. Just straight from the warehouse to you. You can instantly see what other customers thought of the book, you can compare to other books, and you have a search engine that you can type in the “almost title” or “almost author” spelling and get the book you’re looking for. Very useful.

Well, at least it’s convenient for adults. We know what we’re looking for most of the time. We heard about it from a friend, or a blog, or a newspaper. And if we’re kind of iffy about it, there’s the customer reviews to make up our minds.

But it’s not like that with kids. Not most of the time, anyway. Kids are still trying to figure out what they like. And they want to see the different options. They want to hold the books in their hand and see the covers, the length, the size of the font, how much white space each page has. These kinds of things make a difference.

This hands-on approach becomes even more important with picture books. You can tell, right away, if a kid lights up when they open a picture book. You can tell if this is going to be their new bedtime book that you have read three times a night, every night, for the next two years.

And…sorry, I have to say it…websites can’t replace booksellers. They just can’t. They can tell you what other people have purchased when they purchased your book, or lists that other people recommend. But it’s not truly personalized. And as of yet, book ratings aren’t standardized. If there is something you don’t want your child to read, you have to find someone that’s read it. You need a bookseller.

Now, I’m a specialty bookseller, so I’m the exception, but I work very hard to stay well-informed about everything that’s big in kids and teen. I read for two hours every day. I spend at least an hour networking, watching all of the major authors on Twitter to see what they’re working on, when their books are coming out, what the new books are about. I also use that time to read all of the newsletters from all of the major reviewers (like Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and New York Times.)

Also, when I’m reading, I try very hard to keep track of which swear words are used (i.e., whether it’s the “biblical” swear words or the harder ones) as well as how frequent they are. I also keep track of the sexual activity. These are the kinds of things that parents need to know, and computers can’t always tell them. Now, are some websites, like Common Sense Media, making great strides toward this? Yes. But it’s not perfect, and sometimes you really need to know what another actual person thought.

Another thing that I work on is knowing what grade level a book is on. When you have a fifth grader on a second grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that won’t make them look like a baby. And when you have an eight-year-old that is on a ninth grade reading level, you need a bookseller to show you the books that will appeal to her without any bad content whatsoever. Websites can and do separate books out by ages…but that doesn’t help when you have kids ahead or behind their reading level. You need a bookseller.

Another thing booksellers can do that a computer never can… “So, I started reading a series a few years ago, and there are five girls in it…or maybe four…or maybe six…Anyway, I know there were 12 books in the series. Though maybe there are more now. I don’t remember part of any of the titles, I don’t remember anything about the author’s name, and I don’t remember anything about the plot.”

Believe it or not, I actually figured that one out…Beacon Street Girls.

Score one for the bookseller.

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