Now We Are Nine
Today Shelf Awareness celebrates our ninth birthday!
When John Mutter and I sat on my deck in Seattle a bit over nine years ago to plan our new business, one of the first topics of discussion was, "What shall we call it?" John came prepared with an entire notebook page of names; as soon as he read the name "Shelf Awareness" from the list, we knew it was the right one. It was different, and the name didn't immediately reveal what it was. We had no idea how much influence our "different" name would shape what we do.
Over the last nine years, our industry has seen tremendous change. Amazon grew to take about a third of the overall U.S. book market and more than 70% of the e-book market (thanks, Department of Justice!). Borders went under, and "showrooming" became a verb. In spite of all of this, or perhaps in reaction to this, one thing has emerged recently: there has never been a time where, well, the awareness of the importance of supporting your local independent bookstore has been more known among the general public. So much of this is due to the efforts made every day, every minute by our beloved indies. And we nod and bow to our friends at the ABA for their continued promotion of the concept of buying local and for providing the support for indies to be effective booksellers, and especially to James Patterson and Stephen Colbert for their amazing pro-bookstore campaigns lately.
For our part, three years ago, after so many newspaper book review sections dwindled, we launched our consumer-oriented Shelf Awareness for Readers. In our free twice-weekly newsletter, we review the best 25 books published that week, along with author interviews, q&as and other book-related items that appeal to readers. We now deliver this on behalf of more than 80 independent bookstores, who represent 300,000 readers. To see the list of stores and an example of our co-branded newsletter, click here. Last year, by our conservative estimates, Shelf Awareness for Readers helped booksellers sell 100,000 books. And, of course, besides introducing indie bookstore customers to an array of new (and "old") titles, we continue to inform them about the challenges of the industry and highlight the importance of buying from their local bookstores. Our "different" name has helped us remind others to think about where they buy.
We continue to refine our program. For booksellers who want to speak to their customers directly through our co-branded newsletter, we are proud to introduce our new custom editorial platform. Booksellers can now log in to their own Shelf portals and write editorials that will be featured in the editions going to their store's customers. This allows booksellers to discuss in their own words fave new titles, store pets, birthday sales, Hachette displays and more. If they don't write an editorial, our regular editorial will run that spot. A new cool video explains it all.
We are also thrilled to announce our platform has gone international: we are now sending our newsletter on behalf of American Book Center in Amsterdam and the Hague, Netherlands, and Sophos in Guatemala City, Guatemala, with many more to come. Check out the terrific display of Shelf-picked books at Sophos.
Every year at this time, we thank our staff for their Herculean efforts, our publishers and advertisers, and, of course, you, our dear readers. This year we'd like to give a special thanks to booksellers--and make a suggestion. One of the best things we can do to help our industry is to support indies. So we can't think of a better birthday gift to us than for each of you to go now and buy a book from your local bookseller. Tell them the Shelf sent you.
Send us birthday wishes or Bronx cheers here. It's our favorite day to hear from you--after April Fools, of course. --Jenn Risko