There Are Two Main Ways to Increase Traffic As a Book Blogger

Knowing Your Blogging Goals Can Help You Pick Which One to Pursue

After 11 years of blogging here at Pages Unbound, reading tons of blogging advice, and asking other book bloggers what they recommend to boost stats, I have come to the conclusion there are two main ways book bloggers in particular can increase traffic:

  1. comment prolifically on other book blogs
  2. focus on improving SEO.

These tactics bring in traffic from different sources, however, so knowing what you most want from your blog can help decide which to focus on. (Or, of course, you can dedicate time to doing both!)

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Commenting on Other Book Blogs

If you value engagement and are hoping to get more people commenting on and interacting with your own blog posts, commenting on other book blogs is a valuable strategy.

Of course, you want to be genuine and leave comments that add to the discussion and try to make real connections with other bloggers. You don’t want to simply pop by and leave a short, “Nice post!” on something you barely even read, nor do you want to just leave a link to your own blog.

However, commenting and blog hopping is valuable because people can’t really find and read and (hopefully) comment on your blog if they are not aware it exists. Commenting frequently on a wide variety of blogs is likely to bring other bloggers back to your own site to check it out, and some will naturally become followers. This is great for engagement because other book bloggers are the readers most likely to actually leave comments on a blog, unlike more casual followers.

Improving the SEO of Your Blog Posts

If you are interested in getting a massive increase in page views, focusing on improving your SEO in your blog posts is a good bet. A lot of book bloggers report that the vast majority of their traffic comes from search engine hits (which is definitely true here at Pages Unbound; our second highest source of traffic is from the WordPress reader and app, and it doesn’t come close).

The only caveats here are:

  1. visitors from search engines generally do not leave comments, so this is a good source of traffic but not engagement
  2. sometimes when they leave comments, search engine visitors are more aggressive than book bloggers
  3. you might have to think about writing “the type of posts people would search for,” as opposed to writing and posting whatever personally interests you.

In regards to point #3, you can, of course, try to optimize SEO on nearly anything. Some bloggers put a lot of effort into utilizing SEO on their book reviews, for instance, and these can end up as a significant source of traffic. Alternatively, you might simply think of things people are likely to Google, which are often lists (think: Books Set in NYC) or informational articles (ex. How to Write an Amazing Book Review).

If you are a book blogger who has written a post on SEO for book bloggers, feel free to leave a link in the comments below!

Conclusion

Both strategies will take time, but a lot of book bloggers have found they have paid off. If you only have time to pursue one, think about which you would enjoy more (engaging with other readers/the technical puzzle of good SEO?) and about what you want in return (possibly more discussion on your own blog/views from the general public using search engines).

Happy blogging!

Briana

I’ve Accepted That Publishers Aren’t That Interested in Book Bloggers

I've Accepted That Publishers Aren't that Interested in Book Bloggers

The rise of BookTube and BookTok, along with articles like the March 2021 New York Times one lauding the selling power of TikTok videos, resulted in a lot of demoralization among book bloggers. Publishers, it seemed, were no longer interested in working with bloggers and were sending ARCs (advanced reading copies) mostly to influencers on other platforms. Additionally, though publishers had declined to pay book bloggers for years, citing a lack of funds, there were suddenly reports that they were willing to pay influencers on BookTok. Book bloggers felt unappreciated, lied to, and betrayed. And people began talking once again about book blogging “dying.”

This May, Pages Unbound turns eleven years old. People have been predicting the death of book blogs during much of that time, though Briana and I do not think that is true. To me, the idea that blog are dying puts too much weight on what publishers think of bloggers and how willing they are to send bloggers ARCs. There is an assumption that lack of recognition by publishers (and authors) means book blogs are no longer worthwhile or relevant. I could not disagree more.

Book blogs are primarily a space for readers, one that builds a community among individuals who love to engage with and talk about books. They still serve that function–we have more views than ever here on the blog! But, over the years, some bloggers have begun to see the mission of book blogs as “supporting authors” instead. The trouble with this is that bloggers then spend countless hours laboring to read, review, and hype books–taking photos, posting reviews on multiple channels, sending out pre-launch Tweets, urging people to pre-order, maintaining several social media platforms to sing the praises of certain books or authors, etc.–all unasked for. The mission has become to act as unpaid members of publishers’ marketing departments. And, even though this work largely goes unrecognized, bloggers keep doing it because they hope that if they do more and more and more, they one day will be recognized–and paid–for it. But I do not see monetary compensation happening any time soon. The publishers have revealed their hands. They had the money and the ARCs all along; they chose not to use them on bloggers.

Knowing that publishers are not particularly interested in working with book bloggers is, however, freeing. Since bloggers are not in any sort of relationship with publishers, publishers cannot and should not expect anything from bloggers. There is no imperative to market books relentlessly on social media, to buy all the new releases as an act of solidarity, to urge all and sundry to pre-order a book the blogger has not even read themselves and cannot personally recommend. Bloggers are not being paid to work as publishers’ advertisers, and, frankly, I think we should stop trying. Doing all this amazing work free has only demonstrated to companies that, well, they are getting the work free! Why would they pay bloggers for it when it is already happening at no cost to them? Working even harder is not going to convince publishers to pay bloggers just because they are kind. Publishing houses are companies. The fact that they produce books, and that books are art, does not mean they are above financial concerns and calculations. Like any company, they will save money where they can.

Personally, I have never seen it as my duty to market books for publishers; they already hire people for that. Knowing this has allowed me to see my blog as completely my own. I am not obligated to write up lists of upcoming releases, or to urge people to spend money on certain titles, or to get out that social media post NOW before it is too late. I do not even have to read to a deadline if I don’t have an ARC. I can blog what I like whenever I like. I can celebrate backlist titles or talk about bookish things that do nothing directly to sell books. I can even admit when a book was not for me. Is none of that valuable because publishers do not pay me and authors forget to add book bloggers in their acknowledgements section, even when they include Bookstagram and BookTube and BookTok? I think it is valuable.

Maintaining my blog as a space for readers, and not as a marketing arm for publishers, serves an important function, even if it does little to promote this month’s hottest title. For me, the beauty of books is what is inside them, the worlds and the words and the ideas they contain. I love celebrating those things and discussing them with other people. I love finding like-minded individuals, who share my all-consuming love for certain stories or characters. I also love interacting with readers who have different opinions than my own, but who challenge me to see things in new ways. I love making new bookish friends! Not feeling obligated to advertise constantly allows me to create this space, one that is flexible and open and, well, hopefully somewhat distant from the need to constantly buy more and consume more and do more.

I think that if I tried to take the blog in a new direction and to “support authors” relentlessly in a way that meant I was not just highlighting their work and bringing some natural visibility to it through my reviews, but actively chasing new releases and doing cover reveals and urging people to pre-order and promoting books I have not read or do not actually feel really excited about, I would feel drained. I would feel like an unappreciated underling in the marketing division. But I’m not! I’m not part of the marketing division, and so I don’t blog that way. And that’s why I still feel excited about blogging 11 years later, and why I still sometimes feel a creative spark when I start to write. I’m not doing it for the publishers or even the authors, though I am happy to give exposure when I can. I’m doing it for me.

Why I Don’t Like the One-Desk Model in Public Libraries

In the past decade or so, many public libraries seem to have switched to the one-desk model of service. That is, in the past, library patrons might have had to choose whether to go to the circulation desk or the reference desk, depending on their question. The one-desk model consolidates departments, making it the single point of reference for individuals, whether they are asking to update a library card or needing assistance with a complex research question. The idea seems to be that, because the average library patron does not distinguish between departments or the roles of individuals in the library, it is simply easier for them to walk up to a single desk, rather than guess which desk or staff they need–and then be told that they have to walk to some other desk instead. Such an experience would presumably be off-putting to patrons wondering why someone official-looking sitting behind a desk apparently cannot be bothered to help them, and must make them go ask the same question elsewhere. However, even though the one-desk model seems easier for the public, I do not altogether like it–especially they way it seems to have been implemented in some libraries.

To be fair, it did take me awhile to distinguish between the functions of the circulation desk and the reference desk at my public library. I would sometimes be told I was at the wrong desk and had to walk to the other one. Over time, however, I realized that the circulation desk does largely what the name suggests and so does the reference desk.

For those wondering, the circulation desk handles the circulation of items. Check-ins and check-outs happen at the circulation desk. The circulation staff also handle library account inquiries (such as obtaining or updating a card, or paying money on an account) and do circulation stuff that does not necessarily impact the public’s interactions with them–handling the delivery of items, pulling holds, shelving books, shelf-reading, etc.

The reference desk typically handles…reference questions. That could be something as simple as asking for the location of a book, or asking for assistance with in-depth research for an academic project, a genealogy search, and more, or asking for help with the computers or printers. The reference staff are also often the ones in charge of planning programs for adults. The reason why someone at the reference desk might not help a patron with a circulation question (or vice versa) is simple–the staff there might not have been trained on how to answer that question. It is not their job function.

The one-desk model seems like it could be an easy solution to all the walking back and forth of confused patrons. (I had a memorable experience where the circulation desk and the reference desk kept sending me back and forth, both swearing that they had no idea how to help me and that it was the other department’s job. I think I finally just answered my question myself and left.) Just train staff in both departments on how to do both jobs! Or, maybe, staff the one desk with someone from each department at the same time. The reference staff member could sit on the right of the desk and the circulation staff member could sit on the left. However, in practice, I have seen this model fail to work for a key reason: only one person is assigned to staff the desk.

Again, in theory, libraries might just train the reference and circulation departments on how to do each other’s jobs. Problem solved! However, one must really question if this is being done. If you peruse library job listings, reference librarians are often asked to have more qualifications than circulation staff–they might be required to have, at minimum, a Bachelor’s degree, but sometimes an MLIS. Circulation staff might only be required to have a high school diploma. Reference librarians thus presumably in many cases already have more background than circulation staff, if indeed they have a Master’s in Library Science.

Are the circulation staff being asked to do training that is equivalent to the reference librarians’ education? Are they being asked to get any kind of certifications that reference staff without an MLIS might be asked to get? Are they taking the same kind of training–webinars or otherwise? What if someone asks a kind of obscure question about the law or needs help with something like unemployment? Are circulation staff really as knowledgeable as reference staff in answering reference questions when that is neither their background nor their primary job function?

The obvious answer might seem to be that any individual in the circulation department might conceivably be as good as or even better than someone in the reference department. After all, a degree is not everything. Years of experience could factor in, as well as any innate intelligence and general desire to learn. But then the question is–even if someone in the circulation department can do an equal job to the reference department, should circulation staff actually be asked to do the job of reference librarians? Because, since reference librarians often are required to have more experience or education for their roles, their job listings often indicate that they are being paid more than the circulation staff. Consequently, if the circulation staff sitting at the one desk in the one-desk model are doing the work of the reference librarians…shouldn’t they be getting paid at the same rate as the reference librarians?

To me, the one-desk model seems like another instance of job creep; librarians are being asked to take on additional duties without additional pay. In the past, the reference department would have focused on reference questions and the circulation on circulation duties, but now their job functions are being blended. Maybe the public does not know the difference. Maybe anyone official-looking sitting behind a desk is the same as another to them. But library staff in different departments do have different backgrounds, different training, and different job functions. That may or may not come across in how effectively any one individual is able to answer a question that is not technically part of their job description. And maybe patrons and administrators are willing to let little bits of customer service slip in order to get the bigger gain of a one-stop shopping experience. But I think we should seriously consider if asking staff to take on more job functions should result in a pay increase–especially if staff who are lower on the pay scale are now effectively functioning the same way as staff who are higher up on that scale.

What do you think? Do you like the one-desk model at the public library?

What I Learned from Reading All 56 of the Original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories

It took me about a year, but I read all 56 of the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, the classic titles available with the yellow spines. Although I had grown up with Nancy Drew, I had never read the entire collection (I think I read 46 of them). And I certainly did not remember everything I discovered during this year re-read. Below are some my observations about reading Nancy Drew as an adult.

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To begin, it is difficult now not to see the classism inherent in the Nancy Drew books. I knew as a child, of course, that Nancy was rich, popular, and attractive. She had her own car and enough of her dad’s money to go on as many vacations and trips as she could ever wish. But I did not realize just how often Nancy and her mysteries favor the wealthy. Nancy helps poor, people, of course, but the books generally depict only two types–the genteelly poor (those who used to be rich, but have fallen on hard times and need Nancy to find their lost inheritance so they can regain their former social status) or the “rough” poor–the criminals in the stories. Basically, anyone in Nancy’s world who is badly or gaudily dressed, wears too much makeup, lives in the “wrong” part of town, and has bad manners has to be the villain. Sometimes, “nice” poor people can be objects for Nancy’s charity, though.

The Nancy Drew books are also frequently discussed in terms of the way they depict race. Though many of the earlier books were revised in an attempt to remove the racism that even readers at the time were denouncing, this project did not altogether succeed. Often, the books simply remove any characters who are not white. Other times, the books tend to stereotype other cultures, depicting Others as superstitious, backwards, or just plain “strange” because they are different. The Nancy Drew books love to have Nancy travel to other countries, too, and these books often prove opportunities for the author to drop knowledge that sometimes seems of questionable origin.

And we can’t forget the fat shaming! When I was growing up, I was aware that Bess is the “plump” one, George is the boyish athletic one, and Nancy is the popular and smart one. Well, I certainly did not realize exactly how many times George (usually) makes fun of Bess for eating. It comes across as particularly nasty since it’s coming from Bess’s own cousin and supposed best friend. And it is frankly baffling because the illustrator usually depicts Bess as about the same size as George and Nancy! And, when the books describe what the trio is eating (which the books love to do), the three typically eat the same meal. Sometimes Bess has an extra slice of dessert. I would, too.

These are, of course, the really bad things that I now notice about the Nancy Drew books, that I somehow managed to overlook when growing up because all I really cared about was solving the mystery. Who the villains were and what Bess was eating really did not matter to me. However, I also noticed some benign quirks of the series–things that become more evident when one reads the books all in a row.

For example, Nancy’s world is really interesting to me because it is at once very vague (no points for worldbuilding here) and full of stuff. Somehow, Nancy’s small Midwestern town is located next to a lot of prime castles, mansions, and abandoned manors. Usually once owned by some eccentric who left clues and puzzles in the estate. It also seems to be a really bustling place because Nancy has been trained in dancing, acting, and art. She can ski, too, and ice skate and trick ride like a professional. She seems to live in a small town with all the amenities of a city. And her father the lawyer? He has no defined specialty, but takes on a variety of weird cases, ones that usually seem to require a detective and not a lawyer at all. I have no idea what is going on in River Heights, but it always makes for a great story.

And the Nancy Drew formula is not to be missed. It changes over the course of the series, but the early books in particular almost always seem to have Nancy’s car narrowly being missed by a falling tree–or perhaps she will get caught in a bad storm or almost be driven off the road. The same blue roadster that gives her independence also brings her danger. (She also gets several new cars throughout the series.) The ending usually involves Nancy being knocked out and kidnapped, before being rescued by her friends–though sometimes she rescues herself. When this formula changes near the end of the 56 books, it almost feels like a tragedy. Are we even reading Nancy Drew?

In the end, I enjoyed revisiting the Nancy Drew books, even though I cannot overlook their flaws. They provide a fascinating glimpse into a period of history when questions of femininity were being debated and discussed–just as they still are today. Nancy walks the line between domestic and independent, showing that a woman can be smart, assertive, and bold, even as she can be charming and polite. Nancy Drew inspired me when I was growing up, telling me that I could do anything if I had enough daring. And that is something I cannot forget.

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Read the Reviews!

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Related Posts

We Need to Stop Assuming That “Everyone Knows” about the Public Library

In the past, book blogger posts about public libraries seemed to be more common, and they would get plenty of comments from other enthusiastic library users. Recently, however, I have seen a bit of a troubling trend–the idea that no one needs to talk about or talk up libraries because “everyone already knows about libraries.” Sometimes, this truism is shown to be obviously false, such as that incident in which Forbes published an article claiming that library services are obsolete and taxpayers should fund Amazon instead. Clearly, even educated individuals do not always understand all that libraries offer and the unique way they work to provide equal access to information and materials. And sometimes, even avid library users do not always know everything that is available to them.

I use the library all the time, and I am still finding new services and resources. Often, I am able to pass on this information to friends, family, and coworkers–some of whom never visit the library for the simple reason that it never occurred to them. Other times, however, the people I talk to already do use the library, even frequently, but they still had never heard of some of the services available. There is always something more to learn!

Below are just a few examples from my personal life and from my internet browsing that demonstrate that knowledge of the public library is not exactly common for everyone. Some people never go into the library because they are wealthy and well-connected enough that they do not need to. Some people do not use the library because their family never did, and they don’t know how it works–and they might be too scared to ask, or they might assume there are barriers such as membership fees. Some people do use the library, but not to its full extent. For instance:

Personal Examples

  • A friend of mine lived in a city her entire life and had no clue there was a public library in that city.
  • A friend regularly used the library and read e-books, but did not know the library offered e-books to borrow until I mentioned it.
  • Family members without internet did not know that the library offers WiFi hotspots.
  • Family members keep offering me advice on how to find cheap DVDs, even though they could get completely free movies from the library. Some of them frequent the library already.
  • A friend told me she asked the members of her book club how many used the library–none of them do.
  • A teacher friend admitted that she had no idea what the library could even offer her or her class. I’m pretty certain she does not hold a library card.
  • Another teacher friend who uses the library all the time to find materials for her classroom was unaware that students can access tutoring at the public library.
  • A friend who goes to the library did not know she could join the Summer Reading Program as an adult.
  • Several people have asked me how much it costs to check out books at the library.
  • A friend’s coworker was talking about the difficulty of finding movies during the pandemic–she did not know that the public library offers physical DVDs and streaming.
  • At least two people have asked me if they needed a membership card just to walk in the library door.

Other Examples

  • Academic librarians on Twitter have complained that their faculty think the library is obsolete because “everything is on the Internet”–even though the faculty use digital resources available to them on the internet only because the library pays a subscription for those databases.
  • Writers of major U.S. periodicals have divulged that they only recently learned about library resources.
  • Individuals in publishing periodically spread misinformation (inadvertently) on Twitter about libraries and they way they work (presumably because, even though they are book lovers, they do not use libraries).
  • College-aged book bloggers sometimes think they can only use their college library and not the public library if they attend school away from home.

As you can see, knowledge about library services and how they work is not always common knowledge. Even people who are highly educated, who use library services already, and who are book lovers or who are involved in literary circles do not always know everything about the library. So when we stop talking about the library because we think it is overdone or not necessary, some people miss out. They never hear what they need to know–that they will not be asked to pay money to join, that they can find services of use even if they do not like to read, that the public library is still relevant to them personally.

What You Can Do

Talk about the library! Hype it up! Post about it! Tweet about it! Take Bookstagram photos of library books and announce proudly that they are from the library! Some ideas:

  • Write about your favorite library memories.
  • Write about your favorite library resources.
  • Share your secret library tips.
  • Post photos of any library swag you have.
  • Share your library holds list (a spin on the popular TBR list post).
  • Write a book haul post featuring library books or books from the library book sale.
  • Tweet about a library service you have used lately (ex. Libby/Overdrive, Hoopla, Kanopy, Ancestry, etc.)
  • Share photos of your library books or crafts you have made at the library.
  • Share tours of libraries you visit.
  • Introduce your friends and family members to relevant library resources.
  • Invite a friend to go to the library or a library program with you.

Libraries in the U.S. are always being threatened with reduced funding because so many people erroneously believe that public libraries no longer matter. Often, however, people just do not know what libraries offer! So let’s keep talking about libraries. There’s always something new to learn and celebrate.

No, It Doesn’t Make Sense to Pirate Books of “Authors You Don’t Support”

I’m against pirating books in general, and I’m not writing this post to debate that. I’ve been called “elitist” in the past for suggesting it’s unethical to steal books, but I stand behind that statement — and personally I think it’s elitist to imply that only “poor” people pirate books. They don’t. In fact, some polls have suggested that the majority of pirated e-books are stolen by people who CAN afford them, older people with good incomes and college educations. They just don’t feel like paying for books they have the disposable income for, or they don’t feel like getting an e-book from the library or physically going to the library (even though we are talking about people who DO have a library and CAN access it easily, not people without a library or who cannot get to the one near them).

But today I want to tackle an argument I see people make often: that they steal books from authors they “don’t want to support,” presumably because they believe these authors are problematic in some way and therefore don’t deserve to earn money.

Choosing not to read an author’s books because you believe they hold terrible beliefs is fine, and choosing not to give money to people you don’t support makes sense, but I find the idea you would read the books anyway but simply by stealing them instead of going to the library or buying the books ridiculous.

First, there’s an implication here that the author’s books are actually SO GOOD you literally cannot stop yourself from reading them, even while arguing the author is a terrible person who should not be supported. Apparently, their writing is excellent and their books are unputdownable — an implication that looks a lot like “supporting” their work to me.

Which brings us to the point that “supporting” an author is not always a direct financial transaction where you pay $18 for a YA hardcover, and the author gets some percentage of that money (assuming the book even earned out and the author is even getting royalties at this point; they might not be).

You can “support” an author whose book you read but didn’t buy by doing things like:

  • talking about the book in person to friends
  • talking positively about the book on social media
  • rating the book well on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, etc.
  • marking the book as “currently reading” on sites like Goodreads and drawing attention to it
  • writing a review of the book online

YOU might not have directly given the author money or a sale, but if you mention the book in any way, particularly positively, to other people, including saying that you love the author’s work so much that you read it IN SPITE OF claiming to “not support them,” it is very likely you are inspiring someone else to read the book or to give the author a sale.

The only way to really “not support” an author is to pretend they don’t exist, to not read their books and to not discuss their books, to give them no mention and no publicity at all.

I understand that people pirate books simply because they don’t want to pay for them, and I haven’t seen any argument anyone brings up ever persuade someone who steals books to stop stealing them. I’m not expecting this post to change anyone’s mind. But I do hope people will reconsider whether saying, “I only pirate books from authors I don’t support” makes sense or makes them look like some kind of ethical thief who only steals from people who “deserve” to be stolen from — because, frankly, it doesn’t.

Briana

What Order Should You Read the Code Name Verity Books In?

In What Order Should You Read the Code Name Verity Books?

Though many readers are familiar with Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, not everyone realizes that the book is part of a series of companion books that follow various characters before and during WWII. There are various orders one could use to read the series. Below are my suggestions.

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My Recommended Order

My reasoning: Code Name Verity is arguably the strongest installment in the series so far. Its combines powerful emotion with an inventive narrative technique. Read this book first, and you will be hooked.

Rose Under Fire comes next naturally, as it takes place a few months after Code Name Verity and deals with the aftermath of the events of that book. It is a powerful book in its own right. But reading it before CNV will mean spoiling CNV.

The Enigma Game takes place chronologically before Code Name Verity and after The Pearl Thief. It takes a reference to Jamie Beaufort-Stuart from CNV and uses that as its starting point. Much of the fun of this book comes from recognizing characters one grew to love from CNV and RUF.

The Pearl Thief is arguably the weakest book of the series. Its main charm is that it follows one of the characters from CNV and tells of a light adventure that takes place before the war. It will have more of an emotional impact for readers familiar with CNV.

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Possible Order #2

  • Code Name Verity
  • Rose Under Fire
  • The Pearl Thief
  • The Enigma Game

My reasoning: As I note above, Code Name Verity is an incredibly powerful book and it makes sense as a starting point to draw readers in. Rose Under Fire needs to be read immediately after CNV since it deals with the aftermath of the events of CNV. However, one could conceivably read The Pearl Thief before The Enigma Game since neither will spoiler the other. Reading The Enigma Game after The Pearl Thief makes sense because it contains a short reference to The Pearl Thief that could be fun to catch–and because it makes one of the side characters from The Pearl Thief into a point-of-view character.

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Possible Order #3

  • The Enigma Game
  • Code Name Verity
  • Rose Under Fire
  • The Pearl Thief

My reasoning: Since The Enigma Game comes chronologically before CNV and RUF, it does make sense as a starting point. It also gives the backstory of a line mentioned in CNV about Jamie’s experience in a bomber squad. I still would suggest reading The Pearl Thief last since I find it the weakest in the series and, again, I think its main appeal to readers is that it resonates with people familiar with the events of CNV who enjoy seeing the characters in that book enjoying a simpler time, their lives yet unspoiled by war.

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Chronological Order

  • The Pearl Thief
  • The Enigma Game
  • Code Name Verity
  • Rose Under Fire

I really would not recommend starting with The Pearl Thief since, as stated above, I think it is the weakest book in the series and its impact comes from having read Code Name Verity. But, if you like reading books in chronological order, this would be the way.

What order would you recommend reading the Code Name Verity series in?

How Libraries Support Authors

How Libraries Support Authors

Public libraries have received a lot of negative publicity in recent years from publishers claiming that they hurt authors. Libraries, admittedly, have not collected much data on all the work they do and all the ways that work–from hosting author visits to providing free social media marketing–can support authors. The reality is, however, that libraries actually do perform a lot of work that promotes authors and their works. All that remains is for them to quantify it! In the meantime, however, here are some ways that libraries support authors.

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Book Purchases

Once authors earn out their advance, they earn royalties from book sales. That includes sales to libraries! And libraries play an important role in supporting midlist authors. While some booksellers might focus on stocking bestsellers, libraries often buy books that receive less marketing attention from publishers. Libraries also purchase books individuals might not readily buy: academic works, expensive nonfiction titles (such as those used for school reports), lengthy manga series individuals might balk at purchasing because they read the books so fast, and paperback romances that many people prefer to buy used because they read these books so fast. Little data seems to exist on how much libraries purchase and if they might conceivably be thought of as an exciting, unique market for publishers to engage with. But the fact remains: libraries buy books and they buy books the general public might not have been aware of or that the general public might not spend their book buying budget on.

Also read: Should U.S. Libraries Pay Royalties Per Checkout?

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Exposure

Though many argue that libraries hurt authors by buying books and then lending them out, this argument assumes that library users are not also book buyers. But the Panorama Project’s Immersive Media & Books 2020 Consumer Survey found that the library can be an important way for book buyers to discover titles:

“35.9% of respondents bought a book online that they first found in a library, and this percentage is higher for avid book engagers (those who engage with 4+ books per month). 51.6% of avid book engagers bought a book online that they first found in a library. Library discovery is also leading to book purchases in brick-and-mortar bookstores: 31.1% bought a book in a bookstore that they first found in a library—44% for avid book engagers.”

-Panorama Project

Libraries provide free exposure to books through a variety of means: book clubs, displays, programs such as book parties or author visits, librarian recommendations, and (of course) their shelves–browsing for books is still a vital means of discovery for book lovers!

And, again, the exposure libraries give to midlist authors should not be under-valued. A Publisher’s Weekly article form 2019 indicates that bestsellers are now making up most of publishers’ sales and that publishers consequently put most of their marketing power behind those bestsellers.  Readers may only hear of some midlist books if they see them at the library.

Libraries exist in a complex ecosystem along with other means of acquiring books; often booksellers and libraries can end up mutually supporting each other, and do not need to see themselves as at odds.

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Free Marketing

Libraries do a lot of marketing for authors, though they may not get recognition for it. Some of that marketing, of course, comes from book displays or librarians talking up a book to a patron they think would particularly enjoy it. But libraries also do a lot of marketing through more modern channels. They might post book talks on YouTube; hype new releases on social media; host podcasts highlighting books; run blogs with book recommendations; or send out newsletters to their patrons, advertising their latest purchases. Some libraries even host author festivals where authors can sell their books directly to fans. All of this marketing is done by libraries free, or sometimes even at cost–libraries usually pay authors to make appearances and give talks.

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Local Author Collections

Libraries can also provide important exposure for self-published local authors. Many have local author collections where a writer can submit their work, and many will host events highlighting local authors and their books. It can be difficult doing one’s own marketing for a book, but libraries are often happy to partner with authors.

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The Creation of Life-Long Readers

Libraries create life-long readers by providing easy, free access to a multitude of books in a space where judgment about one’s reading habits is reserved and librarians work hard to create happy memories around books. Life-long readers typically do not only use the library; the Panorama Project’s Immersive Media & Books 2020 Consumer Survey indicates that readers engage with books in a variety of ways. That is, library users also purchase books. So anything that creates more readers, and more avid readers, is a good thing for authors!

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Conclusion

Libraries are not the enemies of authors. Some publishers tend to suggest that libraries are the primary reason authors do not earn as much as they might (though one would think that the publisher has some control over author salaries, too). In reality, however, the book market is very complex. There are various factors at play: the rise of Amazon and its shady pricing tactics, the used book market, the ability for self-published authors to sell their books more easily, and the ease with which individuals can now pirate books. The library is just one part of that market, but all parts must be considered when publishers analyze their profits reports.

Since libraries do play such a vital role in exposing readers to new titles, and because they do pay for their books, it seems unlikely that they are the main reason authors are not making money. Indeed, recent data suggests that avid readers engage with books in multiple ways, and that those who use the library also buy books. Creating more readers (as the library does) increases the number of people who will buy books. Libraries should thus be seen as an important way for authors to gain exposure and more readers.

Our Most Popular Library-Related Posts

We love libraries here at Pages Unbound! Check out a sampling of some of our most popular library-related posts from over the years.

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What You Didn’t Know About Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew is an icon of American culture, a symbol of female independence and wit since she first appeared in 1930. But do you know all about the famous girl sleuth? Below are a few fun facts about Nancy Drew that you might not be familiar with.

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Nancy Drew was the inspiration of Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a company that would hire ghostwriters to author books based on outlines they were provided with. Stratemeyer wanted a girls’ series featuring a teenage detective as a counterpart to his popular Hardy Boys series, launched in 1927.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was what is called a book packaging company. It oversaw the writing of its series (including the Bobbsey Twins, the Dana Girls, and the Tom Swift books) by paying freelance authors a flat rate to write a book to order. The syndicate kept the copyright to the books. It then had the books published by Grosset & Dunlap (and later Simon & Schuster).

Mildred Wirt Benson was the first ghostwriter for the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, writing under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She would receive outlines written by Edward Stratemeyer or, after his death, his daughters Edna Stratemeyer Squier or Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, and write a book according to the syndicate’s formula.

Though other ghostwriters would also work on the Nancy Drew books, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams became the main ghostwriter after Benson.

Eventually, Adams began rewriting some of the earlier Nancy Drew mysteries. Some critics see Adams’ revisions as creating a more polished and feminine Nancy, one who adhered most closely to ideals of the domestic. Adams’ revisions were also meant to remove some of the books’ racist elements–though she was not always successful. The revisions also sometimes tried to deal with the problem of racist elements by simply removing characters of color altogether.

For a time, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was highly invested in keeping the true identify of Carolyn Keene (and other pseudonyms belonging to the syndicate) secret, even creating fake letterheads for the company’s various “authors.” To this day, many readers still believe that Carolyn Keene is a real person, and not the product of many ghostwriters.

The “true” creator of Nancy Drew would eventually become a contentious issue as the girl sleuth’s popularity grew. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams would drop the pretense that Keene was a real person, and try to take the credit for Nancy herself, erasing the fact that Mildred Wirt Benson had, in many ways, originated the character and that others, including Adams’ father and sister, had also influenced Nancy’s creation.

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Publication History

The original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories are considered to be books 1-56, which were first published by Grosset & Dunlap. Many of the earlier titles were later revised and the revised editions are what readers can buy in the yellow spine format today. However, Applewood Books printed facsimile editions of some of the unrevised original Nancy Drews between 1998 and 2010.

Simon & Schuster began publishing the Nancy Drew books with volume 57. They still used the title Nancy Drew Mystery Stories for the books. The final book in this series was published in 2003.

The next iteration of Nancy Drew, which ran from 1986 to 1997, is called the Nancy Drew Files. There are 127 volumes.

The Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series ran from 2008-2012. Written in first person, the series made George tech savvy and Bess mechanically minded. Ned works for a newspaper.

The Nancy Drew Diaries is the currently running series, begun in 2013. It continues the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series and, like that one, is written in first person from Nancy’s perspective.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, featuring an eight-year-old Nancy started in 2007 and ran to 2015, releasing 40 volumes. It was rebooted as the Nancy Drew Clue Book series in 2015 and this series is ongoing.

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Other Media

Nancy Drew currently stars in 33 video games released by the company HerInteractive. The games (mostly for PC) take place in the modern day. Players play from the viewpoint of Nancy, so the girl sleuth is never seen onscreen.

In 2005, Grosset & Dunlap released a Nancy Drew cookbook.

Nancy has also appeared in other media such as board games, TV shows, and movies.

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Sources

I relied on Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her (2005) for the historical information. To try to make sense of Nancy’s convoluted publication history, I crosschecked Wikipedia and Goodreads. If there are nuances to Nancy’s publication history that I missed, let me know in the comments!