Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Curated books. That’s how we discover books we love. Let me explain.
In this day, discoverability of books is the issue everyone in the publishing community is discussing. With the avalanche of books available today from self-pub or do-it-yourself publishing to small indie presses to traditional independent publishers, all the way to the Big Five Publishers— there are more more books coming to market than any army of readers can ever discover.
So how do books get discovered, let alone become bestsellers?
The simple answer we always give you is word-of-mouth. We buy a book because someone recommended it. If we love the book we keep buying from that author. But in this changing climate it’s a little more complicated. I think book curators are rising to the top. Just as in a museum or a zoo, the curator is the person in charge– the person who decides what makes it in and what is outside the collection.
Traditionally the publisher has been considered the curator of books. With so many unedited, uncurated books coming to market, readers have begun to realize that a publisher’s name on the spine stands for quality. Having a traditional publisher is often an important indicator of curation. When I submit a client’s book proposal to an acquiring editor, the level of scrutiny given to that book sets the bar high. A book that comes from a publisher has gone through an army of dedicated book curators before it ever reaches the shelf. That’s not to say that self published books are not quality– some are, some aren’t– I’m only saying they are not curated by the tough standard of a known publisher.
Bookstore owners and personnel are also curators. The bookstore buyer is very selective in choosing which books go on the store shelves— his very survival depends on it. The bookstore sales staff are also curators. Just ask them to recommend a book and you’ll see. I used to love the way our independent bookstore put tags above a book, saying which staff member highly recommended that book.
Another form of curation is a book club. I recently saw a Facebook post by one of my FB friends, announcing which nine books her hometown book club selected for the coming year. The comments were interesting. Several commenters decided to read the same books. After all, those books were curated by a group of book-loving readers.
Reviews have always been another source of curation. With shrinking print media it’s harder and harder to find professional review vehicles but a positive review is a valuable boost to a book. Amazon, Goodreads and Christian Book Distributors reviews are still more forums for book curation. I find I often go these places even after I finished a book to see what others think of the book.
And my favorite curators? My reading friends. I have several friends who have very similar tastes and I’ll often ask them what they are reading. Some of my best recommendations have come from fellow readers and writers, or favorite editors, or my good buddy, Janet Grant. And many of my clients are the perfect book curators for me because, after all, I loved their writing enough to offer representation. It stands to reason that we often have similar tastes.
So how about you? Who curates books for you? Are you a curator? Where? And how do you choose which books to read?