One of library media specialist Rose Brock’s five student book clubs, at Coppell Middle School West in Coppell, Tex. Here seventh-graders read Carl Hiaasen’s Scat (Knopf), a January 2009 galley.
It’s a win-win situation: publishers get middle-grade and young adult galleys into the hands of middle-school librarians, who share them with students in hopes of fueling their interest in reading. The kids’ enthusiasm for a title then creates in-school, pre-pub buzz about the book that can, in some cases, have a positive effect on sales. It’s a chain reaction that is beneficial to all concerned—and one that appears to be happening with increasing frequency.
Getting publishers and librarians connected is a two-way street. Publishing staffers arrive at ALA conventions and educational conferences laden with ARCs of upcoming releases, which school librarians happily lug home. Librarians also reach out to publishers, requesting ARCs or galleys of forthcoming titles after scouring catalogues, or ask to be placed on mailing lists to receive galleys.
And school librarians are starting to use ARCs in creative ways. Rose Brock, library media specialist at Coppell Middle School West in Coppell, Tex., operates five separate student book clubs: ones specific to sixth, seventh and eighth grades, a “Manga Club” and a “Guys Read” club. She meets with each group once a month during the school day, and also organizes book-related, off-campus activities with members. She has also recently launched a parent-student book club, which met at a local Starbucks.
“If I get a galley at a conference that I really like and think my students will love, I may contact the publisher’s marketing department to see if I can get enough books to use for my book clubs,” Brock says. “Publishers are very eager to get early feedback from teens, and if they have available copies, they’re usually more than willing to send them.” She also has set up a “galley area” in her library, from which students can borrow ARCs. “I forward some of their feedback to the publishers, but providing me with written feedback is not a requirement for kids to check out galleys,” she says.
Another seventh-grade club reads
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison
Goodman (Viking, Dec. ’08).
At the Girls’ Middle School in Mountain View, Calif., librarian Walter Mayes, a self-described “industry big mouth,” notes that he receives galleys and ARCs from many publishers. “I share them with students, asking them to only take one if they are truly interested,” he says. “Students are asked to give me a written evaluation of the book, usually by writing their notes in the back of the ARC.”
Rather than hold group meetings to discuss books, Mayes says he regularly talks with students about galleys they’ve read “on a one-to-one basis.” Mayes explains that “upon request,” he shares with publishers his students’ reactions. “I’ve been doing this for seven years, and many publishers know me and my girls and will ask me to gauge reaction to a particular title.”
Suzanne Fox, library media teacher at both Silverado Middle School and Redwood Middle School in Napa, Calif., takes yet another galley-sharing tack. She brings ARCs into classrooms and gives students assignments to read and review the book. “I ask them to recommend whether or not I should purchase the book—and why,” she says. “They e-mail me their reviews and I post them on the school Web site.”
Fox also used her students’ evaluations of ARCs they read during the last school year to shape her 2008 summer reading challenge program, putting books they had recommended on the list. “It was a great way to use their feedback.”
Publishers’ marketing departments welcome student comments about galleys they’ve read. Tim Jones, assistant director of marketing at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, sends galleys to librarians with whom he has established relationships, and says he appreciates both written reviews from students and librarians’ comments on kids’ reactions. “It’s helpful for us to know early how kids are responding,” he says. One recent Holt title to which Jones received early positive feedback from a librarian is Marianne Musgrove’s The Worry Tree, in which a young worrywart discovers an old painting behind her bedroom wallpaper that helps her solve life’s problems. “Since this is an issue book and includes discussion questions at the end, it is a good title for adults to read with children,” Jones remarks.
Scottie Bowditch, director of school and library marketing at Penguin Young Readers Group, notes that she is receiving a growing number of ARC requests from librarians for both book discussion groups and mock Newbery Awards. “These are great ways to get kids involved in books,” she says. “And I pass on their feedback to editors and to other marketing and sales people to let them know what kids are thinking, and to get the in-house buzz going about books kids seem to love.”
Random House Books for Young Readers connects with school librarians in several ways, reports Adrienne Waintraub, director of school and library marketing. Her department regularly sends galleys to librarians “whom we know work closely with children and are well connected in the library community.” Waintraub encourages feedback from these librarians and their young readers, noting that kids’ comments about one fall release—Polly Horvath’s My One Hundred Adventures—are being used in ads in School Library Journal and Booklist.
RHBYR also reaches out to librarians with an online program, Author 411, through which reading groups facilitated by librarians are invited to apply to receive ARCs of a featured title, which changes each publishing season. Groups selected to participate then e-mail questions that the author answers online, and receive signed copies of the finished book. Launched in 2006, this program has been extremely successful, Waintraub says: “We’ve been inundated with responses, and many reading group have requested to participate multiple times.”
Two fall galleys that librarian
Walter Mayes is sharing with his
students at the Girls’ Middle School
in Mountain View, Calif.
A book on Scholastic’s fall list provides an example of how school reading groups can pay off for publishers. When Fox circulated an ARC of Rick Riordan’s The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones among her students, word of the mystery spread quickly. “The kids really talked it up and that piqued other students’ interest,” she says. “So when we had our school book fair, 30 copies of this booksold in no time at all.”
A standout crowd-pleaser at Mayes’s school is Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, an October release from Harcourt, which he reports “is flying from girl to girl.” Even a galley, which had no art, caused considerable chatter about the book, which only increased when the ARC arrived. “I had to buy multiple copies [of the book] and process them instantly to keep up with the demand,” says Mayes.
And at Coppell Middle School West, Brock says that because members of one of her book clubs reacted so positively to The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, a spring 2008 release from Holt, the novel will now be taught in one of her school’s eighth-grade classrooms.
Not surprisingly, for school librarians the bottom line is not the book sales their programs might spark but the zest for reading they cultivate. “The best part of hosting reading groups is seeing kids become so passionate about books and authors that they ‘hand sell’ these books to their friends,” says Brock. Mayes strikes a similar chord, noting that his students “love to talk and share what they’ve read. It cross-feeds interest and creates incentive for others to read. We use blogs, online sites like GoodReads and a lot of in-school promotion to get kids talking about books. Sharing galleys starts the drum beating early.”
Oh, and that early peek can be quite cool for children. “Kids love reading a book that no one else knows about, and it’s even better if it’s a sequel to a book that other kids do know about,” Fox says. “Kids think they’re so special, especially when I show them the tag line that this is an advance copy and it’s not for sale.”