RA for All...The Road Show!

I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Another Positive Review for My Book!

Booklist posted this review from their September 1 issue of my book:


Readers’ Advisory Corner: Becky Spiegel Spratford’s The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d ed.


Burcher, Charlotte (author).


FEATURE. First published September 1, 2012 (Booklist).

Updating The Horror Readers’ Advisory (2004), this volume in ALA Edition’s Readers’ Advisory series will help librarians unfamiliar with horror fiction untangle the truly terrifying from the merely paranormal. Public librarian Spratford, who blogs at RA for All: Horror, keeps a tight focus on fiction that frightens readers with unearthly and inexplicable threats.
Tracking horror from its gothic roots to more recent titles such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2010), she discusses key authors and trends, appeal factors, and resources for collection development. About 200 titles are described in nine chapters organized by type of evil, including vampires, zombies, demons, witches and the occult, comic horror, and crossover titles from other genres. Each chapter describes a subgenre’s particular appeal, listing about 20 annotated suggestions and 3 “Becky’s Picks.”

Accessible writing and straightforward organization encourage this volume’s use for quick reference as well as Horror 101. Recommended for public libraries, especially those lacking Read On . . . Horror Fiction (2006).

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I am glad Ms. Burcher noticed what I was trying to do-- make an enagaging and accessible guide to Horror for the average librarian. This is not a guide for fans or experts.  And the ease of use was also one of my goals.  When you have a patron in front of you, wanting a specific book, you need a resource that can help you....quickly.

As I have said a million times before, your horror patrons are not monsters, they just like to read about them.

If you still haven't purchased your cop of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror yet, I still have a few discounted copies available.  Contact me for details.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Library Student Focuses on Horror

Those of you who follow the main blog, RA for All, know that I teach graduate students in library and information science 2 semesters a year.  I really love this adjunct work because I am able to get them, usually right before they graduate, and fix all the bad stuff they are taught about being an old fashioned librarian.

My goal is to turn out little Beckys.  What I mean by that is happy, out going, customer focused librarians, who want to help you find your next great read, based on your tastes, not mine or what critics say you should read.  I talk about this a lot on RA for All, so head over there for more.

As a result of this work, I also frequently have students from all over the country reach out to me for advice and assistance.  Normally it is general stuff, but recently I had a great interaction with a library student named Elizabeth from the Boston area who was specifically interested in horror RA advice.  With her permission I want to share some of our conversation with you:
"I re-discovered an interest in horror fiction in my YA Lit class last spring. One of our assigned readings was Rick Yancey's "The Monstrumologist," and I read that and both sequels in a weekend. Looking at the Horror Blogger Alliance earlier this summer inspired me to start my own horror blog - I'm now just trying to decide if I prefer Tumblr (http://horrorlibrarian.tumblr.com/) or Blogspot (http://bibliothecaobscura.blogspot.com/).
Her short version of what brought her back to horror was inspiring and I wanted to share it.  She is also doing a great job on her two new attempts at a horror blog.  I encourage you to check her stuff out.  She is doing a great job.

If you are a student and want to share your work, let me know.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spotlight on Blogs: [Retro-Zombie]

As part of my irregular feature spotlighting blogs who (like this blog) are members of the Horror Blogger Alliance, I realized that I have yet to spotlight the blogger who has made it all possible: [Retro Zombie].

[Retro Zombie] is run by Jeremy Hawkins, an artist and web designer who loves zombies, but whose tastes and talents go beyond that.  He will create your zombie portrait or you can go here to see some of his amazing work (for sale).

As if that weren't enough, Jeremy is also a big proponent of blogging in general.  He works tirelessly to organize groups of bloggers in ways that both promote their work and allow them to help each other to improve. This is a valuable endeavor.  I applaud him for this.

Examples of his work in this area:

And finally, check out Jeremy's own graphic novel ebook, Chatterbox.  It is available for Kindle in black and white, but if you click here you can find out how to get it in color.

Click here to see past Spotlight on Blogs posts.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marketing Horror All the Year Through

As part of Monster Librarian's Monster Movie Month, I wrote a guest post for them about how to use the popularity of horror movies and TV shows to market your horror book collection to a wider range of readers.

Here is the link to my guest post.  It also includes a link to their review of my book.  For you lazy people, the full text is also copied below.

Marketing Horror All the Year Through
By Becky Spratford

One of the biggest questions I get from my fellow librarians is how they can best market their horror offerings throughout the year.  Of course it is easy to get patrons to notice horror in October.  Every other marketer in the world is priming the public for all things scary, so when people walk in the library, they are horror hungry zombies, looking for their next meal.  We have to do little more than place the horror books within their line of sight, and patrons snatch up the books by the handful.

Ah, but the rest of the year we do not have the entirety of mass media working for us; we have to try just a little bit harder. But as daunting a task as it may seem, marketing horror to your patrons during the other 11 months of the year, is not as difficult as you might think. I have 2 easy ways you can seamlessly incorporate horror into your general work marketing books at your library.

First, let’s talk about traditional library displays.  Most of you out there probably put up a big horror display in October.  But why aren’t you doing it other times of the year?  The most common answer is that you think your patrons aren’t thinking about horror outside of October.  But in the last few years this is not necessarily true.

Let’s take the first 6 months of 2012 as an example.  In April, we saw the release of The Cabin in the Woods, a terrific and popular haunted house movie.  In May, there was the Johnny Depp vampire soap opera Dark Shadows and in June, the king of mash-ups, Seth Grahame-Smith helped to bring his bloody, smart, and amusing novel, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to the screen.  Each of those movie releases had their own marketing campaigns that resulted in buzz about them among the general public.  For each, a small display could have easily been created.

You begin by putting up a graphic of the movie poster on regular 8 ½  by 11 paper (just do a Google image search for the movie) next to a handful of books.  Then you grab some books that are connected with the movie.  So for Cabin in the Woods, you could pull out some haunted house books, vampire books for Dark Shadows, and some comic horror novels for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  Displays do not need special shelving.  Just put books out anyplace where you have space.  For example, at the Berwyn Public Library, we put these small, current event displays up on our desk, on a top shelf that we keep clear to rotate with impromptu displays, and even on small side tables in our seating areas.

These current event displays not only show your patrons that you understand their interests, but they also make a trip to the library easier for them.  Patrons are daunted by the large number of books on our shelves, so anything we can do to pull out good books for them, makes them less intimidated and more willing to browse.  And, displays linked to current media darlings are a sure fire crowd pleaser.

But how do you choose the books?  Here is where I can help.  In my new book and on its companion website, I have a lot of lists that would help you to identify titles that you could highlight.  I am even fine with you using my annotations, as long as you cite where they are from.  In the book I have entire chapters on haunted houses, vampires, and comic horror that include long annotated lists of popular titles available at most public libraries.  On the website, RA for All: Horror, I use tags on each post.  You just need to choose a tag, like vampires, and all of the relevant posts come up.  There are literally hundreds of options at your fingertips.

Another way you can work horror into your displays throughout the year is to simply include a few horror titles in the mix in your larger, more planned displays.  For example, we have done displays featuring coming-of-age stories at our library.  Since this is such a popular theme in novels, on the display we included books from every genre.  There was literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, suspense, and horror, just to name a few.  As I argue in my new book, a coming-of-age theme is huge in all horror.  In most horror novels, the protagonist has to overcome his own shortcomings, face his inner demons, and grow up before he can defeat the physical monster in front of him.  So what horror books can be included on a “Coming-of-Age” display? Any you want.

What about a display on gardening? I have lots of “plants of terror” titles to suggest to you in  my book or on the blog, but here are two of my favorites– The Ruins by Scott Smith and The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltersman.

This plan works with just about any theme.  If you just make an effort to incorporate horror into all of your displays, I am sure you will find a tale of terror to fit most displays.  The moral here is to consciously mix all genres into your displays.  You will have more fun, and you will make a wider range of patrons happier.

My second tip for marketing horror all year also plays off of the media.  I mentioned a marketing strategy for one-time movie releases, but what about the excitement we are seeing for popular horror television series throughout the year?  Again, let’s stick with just the first 6 months of 2012 and talk about two of the most popular series on television, period– AMC’s The Walking Dead and HBO’s True Blood (okay, technically True Blood is paranormal, not pure horror, but trust me, I will address that in a moment).

The Walking Dead ran on TV in the winter and spring, while True Blood is currently running this summer.  For each series I took a different marketing approach at the library.  For The Walking Dead, I focused on a web campaign of all things zombie.  On my blog, I ran many Walking Dead inspired posts and worked hard to incorporate book suggestions in these posts.  I did this throughout the run of the show, culminating with a display of zombie books in the library during the week leading up to the finale.

True Blood was a little more difficult, since its fans are mostly those who like paranormal stories.  In paranormal, the main thrust of the story is NOT to invoke fear, as it is in horror.  The scares come, but they are not the overall point of the work.  As a result, some horror fans do not like paranormal and vice versa.  But, that doesn’t mean NO horror fans like True Blood.  To address the wide range of appeal in the TV series and the book series, a few years ago, I created this list of Sookie Stackhouse read alikes broken up by appeal.  I considered all of the reasons you may like the series and included plenty of horror options on the list.  This list is available online and in the library and is one of most popular lists.

I hope I have inspired you to consider marketing horror throughout the year.  The popularity of horror TV series and movies today proves horror’s staying power.  And if huge production companies think it is okay to push horror during the other 11 months of the year, why shouldn’t you?  We have way less to lose than they do.

And don’t be scared of helping your horror patrons.  They are not monsters, they just like to read about them.