Peter Crawshaw, co-founder of books blog and e-commerce site Lovereading, on his dislike of the term “average reader”, what PRs can do to help him enhance the site’s content and arguing that Legolas does actually feature in The Hobbit.
Lovereading was founded “for book lovers by book lovers” in 2005. How did the blog start?
At a meeting between myself, from a direct marketing / internet-based book retail background and, my now Lovereading co- director, Louise Weir, who is from a publishing background. We had been brought together by a mutual colleague Hugh Salmon. We agreed that the changes in the retail market and the concentration of power meant consumer reading choice was vastly diminishing and good guidance on what to read next was thin on the ground. Also publishers would value and use a media channel that allowed them to connect directly with passionate readers.
Lovereading and Lovereading4kids were our solutions where we combined independent personalised recommendations (delivered first by email and now Facebook and Twitter) which were driven by real book experts, not computer algorithms, with the ability to download a free opening extract to allow publishers to promote books and readers discover them.
You state that you ‘only feature books we have read and believe are great reads in their category’, so how many books has the team read since 2005?
To date around 15,000 on Lovereading and 11,000 on Lovereading4kids.
How big is the team?
We have the mantra that unless it’s a core skill – outsource it. So the core team (editorial, content and marketing) is under 10. However, we have very, very close relationships with agencies and freelancers to cover everything from web design, SEO optimisation, social marketing and email marketing to expert book reviewers with years of book trade experience, and a consumer reader review panel of over 600 adults and 500 children.
How would you describe your typical reader?
I do hate the terms ‘averages’ and ‘typical reader’. However, being the size we are, our profile matches the average UK reader – female, 35+ ABC1 etc, but we promote books in around 20 different genres, each of which have a different profile across both adult books and children’s books.
You also produce two newsletters a month. How many people do they reach?
Our email lists across Lovereading and Lovereading4kids reach more than 250,000 people and its growing every month. Our open rates are also well over 20%, so clearly our members are keen to get their book recommendations.
Describe your relationship with PRs.
We mainly liaise with the marketing and publicity departments within publishing houses, but we are always happy to hear from PRs working on entertainment pitches that have a link to a book.
What should PRs be thinking about when pitching in ideas?
How books and reading supports any work. We are real purists and we only feature promotions that have a link to a book of some sort – we are not in the business of running a promotion just because the profile of the audiences match.
Are there particular genres you’re looking for and others that you’re definitely not interested in?
As long as books and reading are part of the pitch then we will be happy to talk more.
What’s the most common thing you have to refuse from a PR?
A pitch where there has clearly been no thought about how it can link to a highly focused book media channel. Oh and where the PR clearly hasn’t even looked at the site (yes it happens).
Do you accept guest bloggers?
Yes, provided the content meets our highly focused approach and has some real value to a reader.
Can PRs pitch authors to write for you?
Yes. We have a pretty extensive standalone blog, which is easy to link back to an author’s page on the Lovereading website.
Are there any expansion plans in the future?
Yes. Both internationally and through 3rd party content deals in the UK.
Are there any particular authors you’d love to work with?
No. Our ethos is that if our editorial team selects an author or children’s book illustrator, we will run with the title in question no matter which publisher. However, if one of our staff members is particularly passionate about an author’s work we might decide to make him or her our Author of the Month.
Are there any special features you’re currently on the lookout for?
Books linked to films and TV series are always great. Our recent Game of Thrones catch up machine was on Reddit’s home page when we launched it and we had over 300,000 visitors (at one point 2,500 people were using this resource at the same time – a very hot server was the result!).
Special features based around a particular theme such as an anniversary also work well.
Finally, we hear you’re a big fan of The Hobbit. If you could pick a character, which would you be?
I will have to take a bit of license here and choose Legolas – who isn’t mentioned by name in The Hobbit, but he is referred to as ‘Son of Thranduil’ and was definitely living in Mirkwood when Bilbo travelled through.
Read the article on the Gorkana Notes From Basecamp site here.