In Drive, Daniel Pink writes about what motivates people. (Hint: It’s not the carrot and the stick.) Smart children’s booksellers have long known that the best way to turn a child into a reader is not based on bribes. At “Serving the Tween Reader,” a panel presented by the Association of Booksellers for Children at BEA last month, booksellers shared tips for getting the intended audience, i.e., tweens, to read through the pile of ARCs that keep coming, and helping them sell the best ones to other tweens.
Panelist Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD Books in Brooklyn, said that she’s planning to launch an ARC-reading program this summer with a reward system. But instead of money, she’s going to give readers exactly what they want – another book. For every ARC kids read and review, they get one more. Her goal, she said, is by summer’s end to have a list of books that 10-year-olds in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn like.
Having “Advance Reader's Copy” imprinted on the front cover is motivation enough to get kids between the ages of 7 and 17 reading and reviewing galleys for Page 1 Bookstore in Albuquerque, N.M. “We have an Advance Reader Book Club,” said children’s department manager Andrea Greenlee, “and the kids get really excited. Because they see Advance Reader on the front of the galleys, they think they’re in an elite club.” Between 15 and 20 children participate each month. As an added incentive, Page 1 gives each reviewer a $5 coupon toward a new book. Kids have to fill out a questionnaire about whether they liked the book, if they would recommend it to their friends, and who would like it. If the reviewer likes the book, they get to keep the ARC. If not, they give it back and Greenlee passes it to another reviewer. After two years, Greenlee is considering one more perk: a punch card so that kids who read 10 books can get one free.
Before It’s Trendy, a program at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., has 10 participating tweens, and is similar to the program at Page 1. According to Changing Hands children’s book buyer Brandi Stewart, each reader is vetted through an interview process. Those who are selected get up to two ARCs a month to read and review. The store chooses the reviews it likes the best. If a review is used as a shelftalker or in conjunction with a book display, the tween is given a $5 store coupon, which goes a long way in a store that sells used books, Stewart said.
One bookseller in the audience said that she’s had success using business cards as a reward. Tweens who read and review ARCs for the store are officially designated book reviewers—and they have the cards to prove it.