Readers' Advisory

Backlist Author You Shouldn't Miss: Tananarive Due

This blog post was initially posted at Becky Spratford's Blog RA For All: HorrorBecky Spratford is the author of the upcoming Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition).

One of the great things about working at the public library is that unlike the bookstore, we have many older titles available for checkout.

Horror readers especially, do not care if a book is brand new.  They just want something compelling, that makes them feel uneasy, and that will invoke terror.  They are among the most willing readers of backlist titles.  In my experience as long as the scares are good, they will read anything.

To that end, I am going to start a semi-regular feature here where I will highlight either backlist authors or specific backlist titles.  All of these posts will use the label "backlist not to miss," so that you can access all of the posts at one time.

Today I want to highlight the work of Tananarive Due.  Due is an author of character driven, suspenseful horror titles that appeal to a wide audience.  The tension is palpable and there is violence in her novels, but as horror goes, it is on the less graphic end of the spectrum.  The fear and terror are invoked through the oppressive atmosphere and the horrific situations into which our characters are placed.

I often take readers who enjoy Stephen KingDean Koontz, and John Saul, but are looking for something new, to the shelf with Due's titles.  I have yet to find a reader who knew about her before I brought them to "DUE."  I also always try to start these readers off with My Soul to Keep (1997).

In this compelling novel, a 500-year-old African immortal man is living in modern times as David, a jazz scholar in a middle-class family.  He has had many lives and loves throughout his long life, but his current situation as husband to Jessica and father to Kira is extremely satisfying.  However, David's original family of immortals asks him to sever all ties with Jessica and Kira in order to save their kind.  It is David, the tough choices he is forced to make, and the fury of his original people that drives the story here.

This novel is one of my tried and true horror suggestions so people looking for a good scary book.  I have given this backlist gem out to at least a dozen readers over the years and have yet to find an unsatisfied patron.  In fact, hand selling this title to people has helped me to forge a deeper relationship with patrons.  They have often returned to express their gratitude; this just happened most recently in November.  Their pleasure with Due's novels lead them to seek out our staff's help more regularly.  It is a win-win situation for us all.

Good backlist options do just this.  They highlight both your collection and your staff.  This reminds patrons of how indispensable you are.  To that end, look for more "backlist not to miss" horror options coming soon.

How to Read a Book in 10 Minutes

Jessica Moyer is co-author of The Readers’ Advisory Handbook. The following guidelines, a fundamental technique of readers’ advisory, draw on the work of several forebears and as well as the appeal factors published in Joyce Saricks’ Readers Advisory Service in the Public Library, Third Edition.

To get started grab a book you haven’t read before, by an author you don’t know, and preferably one that you don’t intend to read later. As you follow the steps below be sure to make notes.  Remember you only have 10 minutes so read and write quickly!

  •  Start with the cover. What does it tell you about the book?
    • Do the cover images look like they are aimed at a particular sex or age?
    • Is the cover image off-putting to its intended audience or obviously dated?
    • Does it give you an idea of the potential readership or genre?
    • What does the cover say about the author?  Has he/she won any awards?
    • Is the author or title in larger print?  A very large name is a good clue that this author might be a bestseller.
    • Is an unusual font or color used?  Bright red text that drips like blood would be a good indication that this is a scary book.
  • Open up the book and read the jacket blurb or the back cover:
    • What does it tell you about the book?  Is a plot summary given?  Is it directly compared to any other books?
    • What about the author?  Is a bio given or list of previous books? 
    • What do other authors think of this book?  Who are those authors?  Use these to help you start in making readalike connections
  • Flip open the book to a random page.  Check the typeface:
    • How easy is it to read?
    • Better for younger or older readers?  
    • Anything noticeable or unusual? 
    • Is more than one typeface used?
    • Are there illustrations?  Do they have captions or enhance the text?  Add to the overall story?  Are they an integral part of the story?
  • Physical characteristics
    • Heft - Can readers easily carry it?  How big and heavy is the book? 
    • Will the intended audience be willing or able to read it and carry it around?
    • Hardcover or paperback or mass market?
    • Can the book be easily opened while reading?
  • Read a sample:
    •  First chapter: what happens at the very beginning? Which characters or what setting is introduced?  How does the story start--with a description or with action?
    • Read some pages in the middle.  Are the same characters or setting still present?  What kind of events are taking place?  Is it mostly dialogue or mostly description? How much white space is on the page?
    • Read the last chapter (this is why its best to choose a book you don’t actually plan on reading).  How does it end?  Is the ending resolved?  Left wide open?  Left a little open with room for a sequel?  Is it a cliffhanger than demands a sequel?  Who is still alive/giving the final speech?
  • How does it fit into the appeal factors?
    • Pacing: How quickly are character/plot revealed? Is there more dialogue or description?  Check for white space; the more dialogue, the more white space.  Are there short sentences, short paragraphs, short chapters?  The shorter the sentences, chapters, and paragraphs, the faster it will read.  Are there multiple plotlines, flashbacks, different points of view, or does the book have a straight line plot? Is the ending open or closed?
    • Frame: Is the background detailed or minimal? How is the book supposed to make the reader feel? Is a special background integral to the story?  Is the reader assumed to have certain types of knowledge?  Either subject information essential to full understanding or previous knowledge of the world in which the story takes places (i.e. books in a series).
    • Storyline: Does the story emphasize people or events? Is the focus interior/psychological or exterior/action? What is the author’s intent? Serious versus light; comedy versus drama?
    • Characterization: Are characters fully developed or are they easily recognized types? Is focus on a single character or several who intertwine? Is characterization or characters the most important aspect of the story? Are characters developed during the series or in one book? Are there memorable or important secondary characters?
    • What’s the most important or most dominant appeal factor?
  • Other Considerations
    • Plot:  What is the book actually about?  Can you summarize the book in 30 seconds or less?  If someone asked you, “What is this book about” how would you respond?
    • Genre: Is the book part of a recognized genre? If so, which one?  What about subgenre?  Is it a genre blend?  Does the book conform to genre formulas in terms of plot or characters or does it break the rules?
    • Series:  Is it part of a series?  First in a series?  Do the other books in the series need to be read before this book or does it stand alone?  Based on the ending, how eager are readers going to be for the next one?
    • Author:  Who is the author?  What else have the author written?  Does the author usually write in this genre or is this a new direction for the writer?  Is this book a return to a genre the author hasn’t written about or in for several years?
  • Using all the information gathered in the previous sections, connect this book to other books.
    • What genre or subgenre might this book fit in?
    • What other books or authors share similar appeal factors?
    • What kind of reader might enjoy this book

Once you finish, it is a good idea to organize all your notes in a reading log or book journal or even an online book social networking site so that you not only remember your ten minute books, but have a way to look back at everything you’ve read. One way to get better is to set a goal, such as reading a book in 10 minutes once every week, or reading 5 books in a genre you don’t usually read.

Newbery/Caldecott: The Speeches Revisited


Anyone who has ever attended the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet at Midwinter knows the place is always packed, and it’s not the food that draws the crowd. It’s not really the company either, however fine that may be. It’s the opportunity to pay tribute to the winners and the anticipation of getting a tiny glimpse of the people behind the books. A compilation of the speeches from the last decade, In the Words of the Winners, allows us to enjoy the speeches anew, in print this time and enriched by a personal profile of each medalist contributed by a friend or colleague. Below are a few teasers…. 
“Anyone who has reached this podium has traveled a long trail. Few have traveled a longer than I have, across thirty years and thirty books. I am not a quick study. It has taken me this long to find the key that unlocks a Newbery: a naked woman and a snake. There is no accounting for taste, and I am grateful to the Newbery committee for theirs.” --Richard Peck
“Writing is naming the world.” --Avi
“I am often asked, “How do you write for children? How do you know what they’ll like? I’m always surprised by the question because I’d never give it much thought. I feel as if I’m being asked, “How do you write for penguins? Or wombats?” The shocking truth is: I myself was once a child.” --Mordicai Gerstein
“Libraries fed our passion as children, and feed it still.” --Cynthia Kadohata.
“I did not write stories to get people through the hard places and the difficult times. I didn’t write them to make readers of nonreaders. I wrote them because I was interested in the stories, because there was a maggot in my head, a small squirming idea I needed to pin to the paper and inspect, in order to find out what I thought and felt about it. I wrote them because I wanted to find out what happened next to people I had made up. I wrote them to feed my family.” --Neil Gaiman
“My favorite Newbery speech advice came from a Texas librarian who told me to speak for the shortest time allowable and to remember that I am among friends. She’s here tonight, and I have given her a flashlight, and when I have been talking for twelve minutes she is going to give me a few blinks. And after fifteen minutes, she’s just going to throw it at me.” --Rebecca Stead
In the Words of the Winners: The Newbery and Caldecott Medals 2001-2010, coauthored by the Association for Library Service to Children and The Horn Book. (Editions, 2011)

Jessica Moyer on Young Adult Readers' Advisory

On January 17, ALA Editions is launching a four-week, facilitated eCourse, Young Adult Readers’ Advisory, with Jessica E. Moyer, an ALA Editions author and LIS adjunct faculty at University of St. Catherine in Minnesota. ALA Editions interviewed Jessica about the course. To learn more and enroll, see the listing at the ALA Store.

I had a chance to talk with Jessica about her background, and what students can expect from this course.

Patrick Hogan: What’s your approach to teaching readers’ advisory in an online environment?

Jessica E. Moyer: One of the reasons I enjoy online teaching is the opportunity for all students to be fully involved in the course, regardless of where they are.  I create weekly discussion topics and expect all students to contribute regularly - the more contributions we have, the better the discussion.  Every time I teach I find that I learn new materials from my students and their interests and experiences.  

PH: What are a few of the factors that distinguish readers’ advisory services with teens from adult service?

JEM: I find that adult readers often know more about they like to read where as teen readers can struggle to say exactly what kind of reading experience they are looking for.  This means librarians suggesting books to teens may need to ask more questions, work with dislikes instead of likes and provide lots of interesting suggestions.  

PH: It seems like establishing rapport would be the critical. If a YA librarian has a knack for that, what readers’ advisory skill would deliver a  big boost in service?

JEM: Knowing how to talk about books in ways that teen will not only understand but will entice them into reading.  Knowing which books are mostly likely to appeal to certain readers.  

PH: A popular perception is that teens have neither the time nor the desire for leisure reading. What is your research telling you on that?

JEM: Teens do want to read, but they are limited by time.  I’ve found, however  that they are more limited by access.  If they can get access to materials they like and want to read, at a time they have a chance to read, they will read.  But often there are too many barriers - not sure what to read, no easy way to get it.  This is one reason I am excited about ebooks and digital library services - anything that will make it easier to get reading materials to teens when they have time to read.  

PH: You’ve probably learned from questions and discussion boards from your previous teaching experience. What about readers’ advisory with teens do librarians find most challenging?

JEM: Knowing when and what adult books to suggest.  Lots of teen readers like reading adult books, but aren’t sure what to read that they will enjoy.  Most teen librarians are familiar with the YA collections but may not know much about adult books so they can be challenged when working with these types of teens.

ALA Editions on Google e-Bookstore

After several years of planning, Google has finally launched their ebookstore. And hundreds of ALA Editions titles are now available, from recent bestsellers such as No Shelf Required:  E-Books in Libraries to 1969’s ALA Rules for Filing Catalog Cards. Unlike many other e-book platforms, Google lets you use just about any device you own to read any book, anywhere. You can read e-books purchased from Google on the web, Android phones, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and several supported e-readers. Their overview is well worth a read.

You can browse this list of selected ALA Editions titles or use the search function to find a specific book. We’ll be adding more titles as they become available.

ALA Editions on Kindle

Did you know that many of our titles are now available in Kindle editions? Over the past six months we’ve been hard at work converting and uploading many of our recent and most popular books so that you can read ALA Editions wherever you happen to be, whether it’s on the train during your commute or while you’re deep in the stacks. We’re adding more every month, but here’s our current inventory:

Welcome to!

I would like to welcome you to and our open-forum blog. It is my privilege to be the Publisher of both TechSource (subscriptions, e-learning, webinars, and workshops) and Editions (professional and reference books, both print and electronic). My team is part of a larger unit at the American Library Association called Publishing.

The dirty little secret is that I am not a librarian, but I know a great deal about what librarians do, what they think about, and what they are concerned about.  But I never know enough; I will never be close enough to the action because I do not work in a library. So my colleagues and I depend on you tell us what is going on and what you need for your professional development. And here is a chance for you to do just that.

Something that we in publishing share with librarians of all kinds is high anxiety about how quickly our work world is changing. I am old enough (the proverbial 39, thank you Mr. Benny) to remember when the art and science of putting a book together meant having a hand-written manuscript typed by two different people (in order to ensure that the material was correct), comparing the documents, creating a master with hand edits, and sending it off to the compositor—who made galleys. (And why did we call them galleys, anyway. A galley is a long metal tray that holds type ready for printing.)

The galleys would be edited, read by the author, edited and corrected again, and sent back to the author. Changes would be made again until we finally had page proofs, which were sent back to the author and then to a proof reader. Cover art had to be hand drawn; even charts, graphs, and other display elements were hand drawn—we had an art department with lighted tables, for goodness sake.  And permission letters were a horrible bore—they took forever to do and get back. Did I forget the index……done manually? Once the art was in place and the index readied the second set of page proofs were sent off to the author. Corrections always came back, no matter how often you explained that an author could not rewrite anything! Finally, everything was sent to the printer, who put the book under the camera to make film, to make plates....and on and on.

Well, the back and forth still goes on, and we still go to the printer (for how long, one wonders). But it is all so wonderfully different now; still a lot of work for both author and publisher, but our output is more than just a physical book. It can be a PDF of the book you can print yourself; but it also can be an e-bundle that allows you to read one of our books on your Kindle or iPad or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

And of course, this is part of our shared high anxiety: Will an actual book disappear? Some may remember a quaint little movie “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins from 1986—a movie that glorified and revered not only books, but old books. In it are great scenes from the proverbial musty book shop in the basement of a London building. The staff was totally devoted to and knowledgeable about books, great ones and little volumes of seemingly no consequence other than the fact that someone wanted to own them and read them. To have them. Librarians and publishers alike are anxiously asking if patrons will continue to want and to own books. And no one knows for sure.

Now I have to confess my second dirty little secret: I have owned a Kindle for over two years, and I love it. Not only do I love it, I take it everywhere. My non-publishing friends are scandalized. But you are a book publisher. No, I respond, I am a publisher and my world has changed greatly. I want librarians to own our books, courses, and newsletters, but I don’t care if they buy an actual book or something they load on their Sony Reader. Just tell us by your buying decisions that we are publishing correctly for you. What I really want to know is if our content is helping librarians be better librarians, which is what ALA Publishing in general and TechSource and Editions in particular are all about.

So, welcome again to our blog. We want to talk about anything that has to do with books, with publishing, with libraries, with technology…..come join the party.


P.S. Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble is for sale. Leonard Riggio, the founder, will probably lead a group of investors and take the chain private (again). It was not long ago that the entire industry was in fear and trepidation about the power and control that the super store chains would have on the book world.  Everyone fretted that one company, with over 700 stores, would so dominate the market. They indeed did change the landscape. There are very few independent stores around. In 2001, B & N’s total market capitalization was $2.2 billion while Amazon’s capitalization was $3.6 billion.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. B & N today is capitalized at $950 million while Amazon is currently at $55 billion. Who’s the monster now…….?

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