Our Fifth Birthday!

Five years ago today Shelf Awareness published our first issue to our "friends and family" list with a staff that consisted of John Mutter and Jenn Risko working out of formerly quiet corners of their houses. Amazingly now, more than 1,200 issues later, we have 20,000 subscribers from around the book world (as well as some "civilians"); our staff includes six full timers and a small armada of freelancers; and we have two offices.

But some important things remain constant: we continue to focus on how to help booksellers and librarians sell and lend more books. Over the last few years, we've added more regular features like the twice-a-week Book Brahmins, which introduce authors via our version of the Proust questionnaire. We've dropped in the drop-in title database.

In the past year, we've added special issues that allow us to focus on publishers, imprints, authors and books of interest and importance. Dedicated issues now run monthly and are sold out for this year and part way into 2011. We also launched adult and kids Maximum Shelf issues--in which we pick the best of upcoming titles and highlight them--along with their authors, editors and others.

In the near future, we plan on launching our biggest new initiative to date, something that will continue to help booksellers and librarians do their job better.

Among staff changes, just yesterday newsletter and web producer Amber Elbon, whose portfolio wowed us, started at Shelf Awarenss. So far so good: she seems to have survived her first day. All of you who have wanted a mobile version of the Shelf, give her a week or so.

Last fall we hired managing editor Robin Lenz, who, along with many other responsibilities, has added more pictures to the newsletter and made our issues look and read better. Via @ShelfAwareness she's also become our presence on Twitter and is one of the crew that is up before dawn every weekday working on Shelf Awareness.

Contributing editor Robert Gray continues to write his great weekly column as well as many news items and stories. He also provides the most reliable and fresh editorial backup we can imagine. When he takes the helm for an issue, Robert's aim, he says, is to make it seem that the same person is always putting out the issue. And he succeeds!

Children's books editor Jennifer M. Brown remains one of the most enthusiastic and cheerful people we know, a pleasure to work with--perhaps even more so when deadlines loom.

Officially a vagabond as she and her husband tour the country in a camper, contributing editor Shannon McKenna Schmidt keeps writing thoughtful, lively pieces that focus on bookstores, imprints and books.

In the Seattle office, CFO Richard Jobes continues to enlighten us again and again on the intricacies and vagaries of the business world and provide excellent financial advice. Although he denies it, he's a great and witty writer, too.

Book review editor Marilyn Dahl seems to do the impossible (and always in style): in addition to writing elegant reviews and editing the Book Brahmins, she manages and edits a growing group of reviewers (who include Debra Ginsberg, John McFarland, Harvey Freedenberg, Nick DiMartino and Valerie Ryan) and now selects and writes adult Maximum Shelf issues every month.

Sales and marketing manager Melissa Solberg is consistently hard-working, a quick study and a general savior--since no detail eludes her. The former Melissa Mueller marked her own personal milestone last year, marrying Dakota Solberg. We're still getting used to calling her Mrs. Solberg.

Graphic designer Alex Baker makes sure we keep looking good and is responsible for one of the most popular parts of the newsletter: the decoration of our Buddha, Vik.

Our occasional columnists--Stephanie Anderson, Jenn Northington and Michael Bagnulo--cover digital matters and graphic novels and bring fresh voices and stimulating viewpoints to Shelf Awareness. And a shoutout to contributors like Laurie Lico Albanese, who seemed to cover half of this year's BEA panels, and Bridget Kinsella, who's always game for even the most quirky story.

John and Jenn are both so grateful to work with such talented people, to work with each other, to do what we love and to make a living at it. It's been especially wonderful considering that much of our growth has occurred during the economic downturn and started when John was laid off. At the time, one of his friends said eventually he would look back on that moment and realize that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. "Easy for you to say," he thought then. But she was right!



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