Collecting Staff Reviews

Last week, I received a note from Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX. She wanted to share with other bookstores a practice they’ve been using for years. “We have been collecting staff reviews for about 4 years,” she told me. “They are very helpful for handselling if you have not read the book yourself.”

The staff at Blue Willow Bookshop are asked to email book reviews using these guidelines:
Subject line of email

  • Title (release month/year)

Body of email

  • Author, Pub (if you know it) and ISBN
  • Write a 50-60 word review. This review won’t be seen by customers unless you want it to. If you love it, rave about it. If you couldn’t finish say why. (Any negative reviews remain internal.)
  • Helpful information for staff:  Here’s where you put words to help sell: for fans of… , recommended for ages… , it’s clean, there’s sex and language, what book clubs might like it, etc.
  • Shelf talker: Here’s the shorter version of your review which will be used as shelf talker.

When the email reviews are received, they are distributed to a list that includes the general staff email and to any booksellers who wish to receive them on their personal accounts. When the email arrives in the staff inbox which is handled by Google mail, it goes into a labeled folder that is searchable by any bookseller. “That’s the beauty of Google mail,” said Koehler. “You can be at the register and search by keyword to see if anyone has read a particular title and what they thought about it.”

The reviews are also saved into a spreadsheet for potential listing in Banter, their bi-weekly newsletter. They also try to write reviews as they place their buy, so they can include it and alert the publisher.

Last year, Koehler challenged her staff to write 52 reviews, allowing only 10 picture books. Three staff members met the challenge.

Well done.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay