The new issue of CBA Retailers magazine contains an informative and encouraging article geared toward bookstore empoyees who constantly struggle to keep up to date with the plethora of newly released books (particularly fiction). One very helpful tool, the article says, is using the blogosphere.
Article authors Kelly Blewett and Elizabeth Johnson write, "Marketing and publicity specialists believe blogs are the new word of mouth. Since bloggers trust those in their network, and the writers informally know each other, blog recommendations are non-threatening, yet powerful endorsements."
For keeping up with fiction, the article mentions the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA), run by Bonnie Calhoun. At the time of the article's writing, membership in CFBA was up to 175 bloggers. Bonnie works with around 30 contacts at CBA publishers, booking blog tours up to a year in advance. To keep up with specific genres, the article suggests organizations such as Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF), run by Rebecca (Becky) Miller. With its goal to "raise the profile of the genre," according to Becky, the CSFF now has around 90 members and features about two books a month. These two organizations don't see each other as competitors but rather having the same goal of promotion Christian fiction.
Jeffrey Overstreet's Auralia's Colors was featured by CFBA and is on CSFF this month. Overstreet reports his CFBA tour caused the book's amazon numbers to jump up 75,000 points. "I've done twenty-five radio interviews and have never seen this kind of spike, " he said.
For suspense novels, there's Ladies of Suspense, and for historical lovers there's the Historical Novel Society.
Also mentioned is Novel Journey, founded by Gina Holmes, which is "regularly picked up by MySpace News" and averages "20,000 unique hits a month."
For the bookseller, says the article, reading such blogs can help with handselling. For instance, if a fiction reader notes two favorite authors, the blog-savvy bookseller will be better equipped to recommend a new author in a similar style. Or if that same customers reads only historicals but needs a recommendation for a suspense as a gift, the bookseller will more likely be able to recommend a suspense title. The articles notes that comments to posts can serve as added help in giving the bookseller information.
Two negatives are noted. First, that blogs, especially those doing a tour, can repeat information on a book. (Although an easy fix here is simply to choose one or two CFBA blogs to read each week.) Second, that reviews tend to always be favorable, although Bonnie Calhoun does tell CFBA bloggers to "tell the truth [about the book] from their own perspective."
Other sites noted are Novel Reviews, Deena Peterson's blog, and for science fiction/fantasy--Stuart Stockton's site.
Blewett and Johnson work in the publicity departments of Waterbrook and Multnomah, respectively. A high five to both of them for making booksellers more aware of these sites as a way to keep up with new releases and promote fiction. It's one thing to reach individual readers, the end users. It's another to reach the bookseller herself, who is in a position to sell many books.
To subscribe to CBA Retailers, or to buy the February 2008 issue for this complete article, go here.