When You Just Want Someone Else To Tell You What To Read…

8 mins read

Have a friend, family member, or maybe DAD who loves books? Are you always stumped about what to get him or her (especially around Father’s Day)? Book Riot has you covered with a very special show that allows listeners to write in and ask pro book buyers for recommendations.

Book Riot, which is the parent company of the show Get Booked, covers all kinds of genres—everything and anything having to do with books and the reading life—and they have an impressive slate of nine different podcasts. When they started Get Booked, they only had two. 

Host Amanda Nelson started with Book Riot as an original contributor and staff member after connecting with CEO Jeff O’Neal in the blog space. There, he was writing and teaching English, while she was writing her blog, Dead White Guys—a tongue-in-cheek reference to the authors of classic literature.

While Book Riot was in its early stages, it became pretty obvious that podcasts were going to be a thing. Jeff and one of the company’s original employees, Rebecca, named their first podcast after the company. Book Riot was all about book news and publishing, and it was going strong for seven or eight years before Get Booked was born.

When the idea for Get Booked was floated, Amanda had taken on the role of managing content. She wasn’t really talking about books personally anymore, nor was she writing. 

The staff was brainstorming ideas for a fun show that would fill a hole in our content and be a good service to readers. We landed on Get Booked, which would basically provide recommendations to those who write in to ask based on their personal tastes, gift preferences, or book club needs. And I got the itch. I wanted a place to utilize my instincts around recommending books. I’d kind of moved up the ladder at this company, which was great, but I no longer had the chance to talk books. So, this was perfect—I pitched it to the boss, and he liked it.

“Honestly, Get Booked answered a need for more podcast content AND room for advertising. Publishers are our main advertisers. And they are constantly, especially five years ago when Get Booked launched, looking for more places to get their books in front of people. You can only make so many ad spots in any single show and still have a show. So, we started thinking about what kind of new shows we could do. It was completely selfish of me to be like, ‘Well, I would like to talk about books more and interact with readers more on a one-on-one basis in a way that I’ve not been able to do since I got this job. So what about this idea for a write-in show?’”

Amanda points out that the bigger the main company becomes, the less tangible connection one can really have with his or her audience/listeners.

“I really wanted to talk to readers. Since I wasn’t selling books or writing anymore, I just brought it up kind of casually. We knew our listeners trusted us, because they come to our site and follow our other shows. They trusted our tastes and our infinite background knowledge of books. So, what if we created a show that would allow people to ask us personally for reading recommendations? What if we gave them the opportunity to pick our brain?”

Originally, Get Booked was a solo show. Amanda would pick a genre, go out into the world to find an expert, and bring him or her on to the show to help with book recommendations. For example, if she was going to recommend seven romance novels on an episode, she’d go find a romance expert. But she soon discovered that wrangling guests every week is a pain.

She decided to wrangle Jenn Northington, an independent book seller, as her co-host instead. Jenn agreed, and because Book Riot was regularly receiving recommendation requests from people via Twitter, Facebook, and email, the show essentially had a built-in audience from the start. 

“We weren’t taking the time to answer all those individual requests. We already knew that people would respond; we created the show to fill that need. We didn’t really have to do much other than set up a Google form and put it out across all our social media. We just said, ‘If y’all have read requests, drop them here.’ And we have never had a problem or shortage of questions. They just keep rolling in.

We did a lot of personal talking up of the show, too, like on my personal social media. Jenn did the same, hoping word-of-mouth would do what it does. And thankfully, it did!”

Things are different now than they were five years ago. Book Riot has a much bigger audience and platform, which makes launching a new show and growing an audience to a respectable size quickly even easier. 

Get Booked is now closing out their fifth year. 270(ish) episodes in, Amanda finds it amazing that people have that many different books they want to read and need help finding, but they do. And as a result, the show is still going strong.

Amanda’s favorite part about hosting the show? She loves getting to tell people her opinions.

“It’s such a nerdy thing, yet all book people understand. The opportunity to sit down for an hour and tell people what to read is just so great. It’s like an ‘I’m mad with power’ kind of thing. I really love that this platform that I have with the show and with Book Riot allows me to spotlight books that I think are underserved. Some authors don’t have big marketing budgets, especially this year, during the pandemic. All these books have come out, but those authors can’t tour. They can’t go out to bookstores or really do any kind of promo. The books are just landing with nobody around to celebrate them. I’ve done what I can to point people to them. The show allows me to really direct people’s attention to places I think aren’t getting enough attention, which is great.”

 

June 2021 Issue

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Steve Olsher
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