July 17, 2018

Back to readers’ advisory basics

It’s all of the day-to-day interactions that build the foundation of lofty strategic plans and mission statements. Readers’ advisory makes up a big chunk of those interactions, but it can be daunting to think about readers’ advisory in *too* much of a big picture sense. The readers’ advisory interview. Form-based readers’ advisory. Gah.

Part of the problem with helping readers on their quest for their next great book can be, well, us. This can take various forms: focusing on our lack of knowledge about a given genre, our discomfort with initiating a reader’s advisory interview, or, stuck in our tracks, worried that a book might not be absolutely perfect for our reader, resulting in what I call a "genre-in-the-headlights" experience. Intimidated? Maybe we should break readers’ advisory down into basic components.

One way to do that: framing readers’ advisory as a conversation. All the hallmarks of good conversation, from focusing on the reader rather than yourself, making small talk, and slipping in questions can serve as the kind of jump-start from which your readers’ advisory conversation can benefit.

Try these conversation-starters:

Begin with an observation. See if you can link it to a question. I see you’ve picked up a Louise Penny book. Do you usually read mysteries?

Embrace small talk! Did you see any good movies this weekend? Build on that for possibilities for book recommendations. Try the "For Fans of" lists in NoveList for book tie-ins to popular movies, TV shows, and musicians.

Try "if only" questions. If you were stuck in a cabin for two years, what five books would you take with you? Look for commonalities across these books as a starting point for recommendations.

Frame with “would you rather” questions. Would you rather read fiction or nonfiction?  Go broad first, then fine-tune.

Approach from another angle. What’s a book you just couldn’t finish? Why didn’t you like it?  “What’s a book you’ve read more than once? What did you like most about it?”

Theme it up! Take a look at themes, our latest addition to NoveList story elements. You’ll find a list of themes in NoveList that will be sure to get a conversation rolling.

 What are some of *your* favorite RA conversation-starters? We’d love to hear from you!

Kathy Stewart is a NoveList Consultant.


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