Behind The Scenes: That’s When Things Got Interesting

Greetings and felicitations, Insiders! Today’s look behind the curtain is from Rebecca Schinsky, our Executive Director of Product & e-Commerce and professional Wearer of Many Hats. But before we get into that, congratulations to Kara, winner of our monthly Novel-level mailbag. Remember Novel folks, as long as you’ve updated your Watchlist in the last three weeks, you’re eligible for the drawing. And how about a new store deal?

Buy any adult tee, get a water bottle for $5. Use code DOGDAYSINSIDE at checkout.

collage of t-shirts and water bottles

Ten years ago this month, shortly after moving to Richmond, VA, I walked into a Barnes & Noble and got the first job that would change my life.

That wasn’t my goal at the time. My goal back then, fresh from dropping out of grad school and moving across the country, was to have a part-time gig that would give me space to “find myself” (oh, to be 24 again) and figure out my next “real” career move. I talked about some books I loved, exaggerated my previous retail experience, said I was willing to learn how to make lattes, and I was hired. For six months, I manned the cash register, sold membership cards, learned the finer points of shelving, and perfected the art of figuring out what a customer was really looking for when they asked for “this book about a tiger, I think it has a blue cover?” (Life of Pi, natch). Then the community relations manager (CRM) quit and I got a promotion that came with an office, a computer, and a door that closed! And that’s when things got interesting.

One of my duties as CRM was to plan author events and handle local author signings, so when an author came in one day asking if she could arrange a signing, I took her info and told her I’d get back to her. The press release she included with her book looked pretty standard, but it had something I’d never seen before: a quote from a blogger! I wanted to see if this author was legit, so I googled the blog, and behold: it was just a normal person sharing her thoughts about books. She wasn’t a professional book reviewer–the blog wasn’t even her job–she was just there for fun. For fun! And there were people reading and commenting on her posts! Now, I know this might sound quaint to you since you’re reading this as a newsletter from Book Riot, but ten years ago, it was staggering. That blog led me to others, which led me to LibraryThing, which led me to still other blogs, and you could have knocked me over with a feather. In one trip down the internet rabbit hole, I discovered that anyone–literally any Tom, Dick, or Harry–could just get a website and share their thoughts with the world, and if you were lucky, people would read them and talk to you. Amazing!

So I did it.

One bored summer afternoon (July 1, 2008, to be precise), I closed my office door, got a WordPress domain, and started reviewing books. I read and commented on other blogs. I later joined Twitter. Through a combination of luck, timing, and being unafraid of cursing in a book review, I built a readership, a reputation, and some relationships in publishing. I changed jobs a couple times, and I kept on blogging. Always on the side, always as a hobby, but always wishing and hoping and dreaming of the day it could maybe be a job.

Then in the summer of 2011, something called Book Riot followed me on Twitter. Eventually, I found out that Jeff O’Neal, whom I knew from his blog The Reading Ape, was one of the founders, and after a series of events that is now a crazy blur, I got hired to run social media for, I think, 10 hours a week. Which I did for definitely more than 10 hours each week, in the early-early morning before my barista shifts at a local Starbucks and late at night after finishing my other freelance projects. I worked a lot and slept not so much. It was exciting and terrifying and weirdly kind of liberating; you can do a lot of things when you’re new and nobody is watching. So Book Riot was irreverent and a little snarky, and it tweeted a lot of hip hop lyrics. Here in 2017, that sounds like Amy Poehler trying to convince you that she’s a ~cool mom, but it actually was new and different and, yes I’m going to say it, disruptive for the bookish internet of six years ago. I tweeted and Facebooked and moderated comments, and every day, I crossed my fingers that we’d make it to 2500 pageviews. (Which, for scale, is about what we do in an hour now.)

animated GIF of Amy Poehler from Mean Girls saying

After a few months, my quarter-time job turned to half-time (let’s be real, it was a startup, so I was really already working full-time), and then in May 2012, we made it official. Book Riot had survived its first six months and was Not An Immediate Failure, and I was a full-time editor and community manager. I tweeted and Facebooked and moderated comments, and now I also checked posts for typos, changed titles to be snappier, handled giveaways, answered reader emails, helped on some sales calls, and pitched in on whatever else needed to be done. That’s the thing about a startup: if the bathrooms need to be cleaned, you better grab the scrubber because the janitor doesn’t exist. Whatever the digital equivalent of scrubbing the toilets is, I did it alongside Jeff and co-founder Clint Kabler (who runs the operations and keeps the books balanced and the lights on) and, after not too long, Amanda Nelson.

Book Riot continued to grow. We ran some t-shirt campaigns and a successful Kickstarter. We launched a sub-domain for book trailers and a new site around food writing, which were, well, not successful. (RIP, Food Riot.) We made a practice of trying new things, and because you simply can’t succeed at everything, we learned how to get comfortable with failure.

In Sister Act 2, Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) tells her class: “If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention.” To that, I say amen, but also: you better keep moving forward. So then there was Book Riot News and Book Riot Deals, which didn’t work as sub-domains but found new life as newsletters. There are podcasts! So many podcasts. Book subscription boxes. A sister site about comics (RIP, Panels.) Multiple attempts at read-alongs. The Read Harder Challenge. Book Riot Live. Insiders. Annotated. Many things I don’t even remember anymore. And now, the Pigeon pilot.

They won’t all work out. They can’t. But some of them will! And after these successes and failures, there will be more attempts and more unknowns and always, always more lessons to learn. It’s something of a joke among Book Riot staff that launch day is never a big deal because by the time a thing launches, we’re too busy working on the thing that comes after it to throw any confetti. But it’s true. The daily, unglamorous, bit-by-bit work is the thing. One new reader. One more underrepresented author given a well-deserved platform. One more risk.

I’m here because ten years ago, I said yes to the niggling voice in my head that suggested I had something to say that people would want to read. And then I kept saying yes, even, and especially, when it was scary. Book Riot is here because Jeff, Clint, and the group of friends and family who provided the startup funding said yes to trying something new and maybe (probably) losing money. Then a dozen bloggers said yes to writing for a new site. Then readers said yes to thinking about books and literary coverage in a new way. Day by day, bit by bit, people took notice and the bookish internet changed.

Eleven full-time staff, 120ish contributors, and millions of pageviews later, Book Riot is here because you are here.

Okay. What’s next?

animated GIF of Martin Sheen as Jed Bartlet on the West Wing saying,



Behind the Scenes Jeff pt 2

Happy end of June, folks! Today we’ve got Jeff talking about his latest big project. But first, our regularly scheduled housekeeping:

– There’s now a Lit Fic chat for the Insiders Forum! Check out the updated schedule here.

– We’ve pushed out an update to the New Release Index, aimed at making all the bells and whistles (the month selector, the Watchlist ribbon, etc.) work better, smoother, faster. Give it a whirl and let us know how we did!

– Congrats to our Epic mailbag winner of this month, Nicole H.! We’ll let you know the Novel-level winner next round; make sure to keep your New Release Index updated each month to be entered.

I remember the day I became a podcast fan. It was seven years ago, and I was re-painting a bedroom for our yet-to-be-born son. And I hate painting, so in effort to make the day more palatable, I downloaded a bunch of episodes of this radio show that my friend had recommended, This American Life.

I wouldn’t say I was head-over-heels, but I enjoyed the 10 episodes I listened to that day and was interested to see what else was out there. I ran through the now-usual suspects next: RadioLab, Planet Money, etc. I also finally pulled the trigger on listening to some of the talk show-format podcasts that writers I liked were doing (Bill Simmons, John Gruber). And that was it. Podcasts became a part of my everyday life.

It was a few years later after Book Riot had been around awhile that I heard a show called The Frequency on Dan Benjamin’s 5by5 podcast network, which hosted and still hosts the podcast that has meant more to me than almost any other, Back to Work with Benjamin and Merlin Mann.

The Frequency is a weekly rundown of interesting stories from the world of technology. It’s informal, zany, and geeky. And I realized that I wanted to do a show like that, but for books. So Rebecca and I got some USB mics, convinced my brother Kyle to edit the shows for us, and as of today we are 215 episodes into the Book Riot podcast. And then came All the Books, Reading Lives (RIP), Dear Book Nerd (RIP), Get Booked, Read or Dead, and SFF Yeah!

The connection we made with the Book Riot audience through podcasts has been the biggest surprise in this whole BR experiment. Our podcast listeners are the most engaged, vocal, and frankly valuable part of our audience. It’s impossible now to imagine doing what we do without these shows, both in terms of the revenue the advertising brings in, and how much the connection with people matters and keeps us going.

But I kept thinking about how I got into podcasts in the first place. The audio-documentary format that uses the medium of personal audio to create a strange intimacy between the subjects, hosts, and listeners. What would it take to do something like that with books? It’s been on my mind for years.

And so this week sees the premiere of episode #1 of Annotated. It’s a short-form documentary podcast series about books, reading, and language. This first episode, “Is it 1984 yet?,” is about the resurgence of interest in George Orwell’s 1984 and the story of how 1984 came to be.

There will be five more episodes in this first season, with a new episode coming out every two weeks through the first week in September. It’s been a dream of mine to try and it’s been tough, and nerve-wracking, and exciting. We’ve got some great stories coming out, so I hope you will give it a chance. I’d love to hear what people think–we’re learning as we go and want to get better and tell more interesting, fun, and thought-provoking stories (email me at

My great friend and writer Jeremy Desmon agreed to help with with structuring the stories and figuring out if my nerdy story ideas were decent (most weren’t), and my brother Kyle continues to be up for anything we throw at him. The folks at Hachette took a flyer on being the exclusive sponsor of this limited run show, and I am really humbled that they agreed with nothing more than a Google doc to go on.

Toni Morrison said you’ve got to write the book you want to see in the world, so this is the podcast version of that for me. I am not sure if it will work or be sustainable as part of the business, but I couldn’t not try.

I’ve remembered in the course of this that there are so many amazing stories out there about these books we love, the authors who have written them, and the librarians and editors and booksellers and teachers and advocates for reading who have been out there making the reading world as we know it. We hope to do them justice.

If you like the show, do pass it along to other who might like it. And if you have an extra moment to rate and review it, especially on Apple Podcasts, that goes along way toward finding a large enough audience to support more shows.

Happy listening,


Behind The Scenes: Scrapping And Stretching And Getting It Done

Hello Insiders! We’ve got a look at the founding and evolution of Book Riot from our CEO Jeff O’Neal below, but before you dive into that we’ve got a few announcements. The first is that your subscriptions have gotten even better, because we added some perks! There’s now a monthly mailbag giveaway for both Novel and Epic-level subscribers, plus commentary from Liberty on some of her favorite books in the New Release Index. You can get the full breakdown right here in the shiny new News section (make sure you’re logged in to see it!).

And so you don’t miss it, we’re moving this month’s store deal up to, well, right here. This month you can buy 2 pint glasses and get coasters free! Use code JUSTCOASTIN at checkout.

image of two pint glasses and assorted coasters

Read on, friends.

Last week, I got keys to an office. It’s not huge or fancy. It doesn’t have a kitchen or ping-pong tables or catered, company-paid for lunches. It is four walls, some windows, a few electrical outlets, and decent wi-fi.

But after working on Book Riot for six years out of closets and my bedroom and coffee shops and libraries, it feels like something. I’ve recorded podcasts at midnight, worked on pitch decks while bottle-feeding my kids, and taken conference calls in the bathroom because I couldn’t get reception anywhere else.

Jeff and baby daughter Rowan working on Book Riot together

When we started working on Book Riot, I had a newborn son and was juggling multiple teaching gigs. We had barely enough money to get the URL designed and running, and it would be awhile before Clint and I got paid anything at all. We knew going in it would be tough and the most likely result would be failure.

So when I unfolded the coffee table and sorted the USB jungle that is my computer set-up and sat down with my coffee for the first time in this new quiet, simple space, it occurred to me to exhale for a moment.

I’ve learned to take a moment to appreciate making progress. A small step after another small step. If you are smart and work hard and are lucky, you might make it to the next part. And then maybe again to the next part after that. The scramble can be all-consuming, so I have learned that if you can see a moment to notice the progress, to see the change that has happened, you’ve got to take it.

I don’t have anything else to compare it to, but building Book Riot has been and continues to be about figuring it out. Making do. Holding it together. Scrapping and stretching and getting it done. Solving one problem so that if you are lucky the next problem you have to solve will be slightly more interesting.

When you are starting something new it is natural to dream about what it could be, and that’s fun. I’ve done it, and still do it now and again. But I am not sure that realizing any of those daydreams would ever be as satisfying as getting to work with people you trust on something you care about. I’ve been fortunate to do that for almost six years now, and I’m busting my ass to continue doing so.

But right now, I have a fresh cup of coffee and a full email inbox and four walls do get to work in.

— Jeff

a very bare room with a large window, a desk, and a laptop -- no chair yet -- that will serve as the new Portland Book Riot office



A Super-Secret Pilot Program for Insiders Only!

Hello Insiders,

We’re coming to you today with your first chance to help Book Riot explore a new project! (Now with a link for the form below, if it doesn’t load in your inbox!)  For about as long as we can remember, we’ve wanted to offer readers a custom-recommendations book mail service — think of it as a Stitch Fix for books. Basically, you would tell us what you like to read and what you’re looking for, and we’d send you 3 handpicked books (or book recommendations) we think you’d love, along with a note about why we chose them.

We have a lot of ideas about how this could work, but we have a lot of questions too. That’s where you come in!

As part of our research, we’re offering 25 lucky Insiders the chance to participate in a one-time pilot program.

Here’s what you get:

Level 1: An email containing 3 custom book recommendations for $10

Level 2: A shipment of 3 custom-recommended paperback books for $50

Level 3: A shipment of 3 custom-recommended hardcover books for $75

Shipping is included in the above pricing.

25 participants will be randomly selected and notified by email. If you get into the pilot, you’ll receive a link to purchase the one-time pilot product and a survey about what you’re looking for. Then we’ll send you your picks in July!

Here’s what we need: If you are selected to participate in the pilot, we’ll be asking you to let us know when your books arrive and to give feedback on the process, the selections, and your interest in subscribing to an ongoing book-rec mailing service.

The fine print: The book-mailing portions of this pilot are open to US residents only, BUT we want to hear from those of you outside the US as well so that we know how to gauge interest and plan for the future. Additionally, we’re still figuring out how sales tax will work, so some states may be ineligible.

Complete this form by June 20th, and cross your fingers! We’ll notify the winners June 21st and send your books out in July.


Get An Epic Spot Today ?

Hello, Novel folks! We’ve got another round of Epic spots open, and as usual you get first crack at them. They open up today, Monday the 12th, at 9am Eastern — have at ’em!

In case you weren’t sure, in addition to the perks you enjoy already Epic subscribers get:
– Access to the Insiders-only Forum, limited to 250 spots! Come hang out with us!
– A special Monthly Mailbag drawing, because free books are the best books.

Just head to My Account on, click “Manage My Subscription,” and grab your Epic spot. Ready, set, click!

screenshot of the logged-in My Account screen with three orange arrows pointing to Manage My Subscription Plan, located towards the bottom of the screen


Kelly Recommends: 5 Backlist Books

Hello, Insiders! We’re delighted to introduce our second monthly Behind the Scenes email, a new regular feature in which our staffer of the month shares some of their favorite picks for your reading enjoyment. Ready for your TBR stack to get even higher?

It’s great to read the new and the shiny but I find reading backlist — those books more than a year old — to be as, if not even more, satisfying sometimes. Here are five young adult backlist titles totally worth tracking down and reading. — Kelly Jensen, associate editor and community manager

Since You Asked by Maureen GooSince You Asked by Maurene Goo

Want a light-hearted, sometimes over-the-top story about a girl who accidentally finds herself writing columns for her high school paper? This is your book. Holly is a Korean-American girl in a Los Angeles area suburb navigating what it’s like to be expected to follow traditional cultural beliefs while also finding her own way as an American teenager. It’s funny and Holly finds herself in a lot of ridiculous situations, thanks in part to that column she never meant to write.

Peas and Carrots by Tanita S DavisPeas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis

What happens when a middle class black family fosters a white girl the same age as their teenage daughter? Well, the two of them go together like peas and carrots (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? Or really what Tanita S. Davis did there?). This book alternates chapters between the two perspectives, giving a look at how Dessa navigates being in a new foster family while her mother is incarcerated and how Hope forges a relationship with her new sister. A story about what family means, rather than what it looks like — with some excellent exploration of racial and body politics.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza GueneKiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faïza Guène

Had this book been published a few years later than it did, it would have easily been a YA title. Therefore, I am including it here because this is a book that exemplifies an excellent YA voice. Doria is a 15-year-old growing up in the projects outside of Paris, France. She’s dealing with her father ditching her and her mother, who is illiterate, as he heads back to Morocco in order to attempt marrying a woman who can sire him a son (that’s all that matters in his culture). It deals with urban issues in a way that’s cross-cultural, about the challenges of growing up between cultures, and what it means to figure out who you are and what you do when your world’s been blown apart. It also looks at what happens when the people you’ve come to know and rely on for certain things — their always being there, their always NOT being there — change and mold into their own lives and new paths, too.

Frost by Marianna BaerFrost by Marianna Baer

I can’t say a lot about this one except it’s realistic horror about a girl who finally gets to live in the school-owned private house her senior year and A Lot Of Shit Goes Down. There’s a scene here with bugs covering a bed and a scene with a small wooden owl that I will never, ever forget (his name is Cubby). Enough said.


Lovestruck Summer by Melissa WalkerLovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker

This now super-cheap, in-ebook-only story is a sweet summer romance set in Austin, Texas. Quinn just graduated high school and has been itching to make her way to Austin, where she knows she’ll be able to indulge in her love of all things music and bands. When she scores an internship with her favorite record company, the itch is scratched and she moves in with her cousin Penny. There’s immediate friction between the cousins and things only get a little more contentious when boys enter the picture. This one is for readers who want a love story with heart and well-drawn characters operating within a well-drawn city. Prepare to plow through it in your hammock in an afternoon.


Get Epic on Wednesday!

Howdy Novel folks! A few Epic spots have opened up and, as promised, you are the first ones to hear about it. They’ll be available starting this Wednesday, May 24, at 10 a.m. Eastern and we expect them to go fast.

Ready to upgrade and get access to the Insiders Forum on Slack? Just head to My Account on on May 24, click “Manage My Subscription,” and grab your Epic spot!

screenshot of the logged-in My Account screen with three orange arrows pointing to Manage My Subscription Plan, located towards the bottom of the screen


Behind The Scenes: Bunnies and Community Management

HELLO Book Riot Insiders!

Welcome to a look behind the scenes with me, Kelly Jensen, associate editor and community manager. I believe I might have the most non-traditional schedule of all of Book Riot, so buckle up!

Above is a shot of my desk. Enjoy feminism, great puns, and what might be the only image of a Book Riot editor who writes down scheduling information on paper.

My week is a little different than the rest of staff, since I cover (part of) the weekend. My own week begins on Tuesdays and it ends on Saturdays, with hours that are split through the day. I tend to get started working super early — 6:30 or 7 AM Central time — and run till 10 or 11, depending on how much I need to get done or how into a project I have fallen. There are periods through the month when I have meetings at 12:30 my time, and I’ll often just work from the morning until the meeting ends.

What are those morning tasks, you ask? A few things! First, I’m the person behind our Tumblr, our Pinterest, and our Goodreads accounts. This means my mornings are all about scheduling posts and pieces of posts up there, as well as putting out any fires that have started. This doesn’t happen a whole lot, though periodically, there are questions that need my attention in the Goodreads Read Harder boards.

Since my schedule is nontraditional, here’s a fun little Insider secret: our Tumblr and Pinterest posts are rarely, if ever, posted the same day as they are on site or on Twitter and Facebook. They tend to be a day or two behind. It’s both because it makes sense to do it that way schedule-wise so I don’t miss sharing Monday posts, but it’s also selfish — I want to read what was posted on my days off that I may have missed.

Scheduling doesn’t take all morning, but sometimes, it can take a good chunk of time. When I do finish that, I have a few less-glamorous tasks behind the scenes. Those include doing some tracking of sponsored posts and also my least favorite thing in the world: reading my email. Most of it is junk, and I hate having to clean it out. It’s like when you know that your life would be easier if you took out the trash bag when it’s full and yet you think it’ll be somehow easier if you just push the trash down further in the bag and keep piling things on top.

Spoiler alert: that doesn’t make it easier. Also, it’s kind of gross.

Other morning tasks for me include writing and plotting out what I’m going to write and taking care of the associated research/contacts with it. I try to allow one or two mornings a week where I give myself plenty of time to brainstorm and write things like my weekly “What’s Up in YA?” newsletter (which really doesn’t take long to write but can sometimes take a bit of time to research or pull together with interviews) and my weekly “3 On A YA Theme” column. I’ve also added a biweekly(ish) post that rounds up sweet bookish goods on a topic — see this one on typewriter fetish or this one on bookish goods for cat lovers. Sometimes I have other writing projects underway that I’ll either do the research for or sit down and write. My goal is trying to have my regular pieces for each week, plus one or two other posts, so there’s always many things going on and I kind of let my mindset dictate which gets my attention that day.

One day of the week, though, is totally different for me, and that’s Fridays. Since I cover weekend work, Friday mornings are when I schedule posts for the weekend, as well as set up the social media posts for Twitter and Facebook for Saturday. I do a little bit of that for Book Riot Comics, as well — back in the day when our little operation was smaller, I used to do all of the weekend scheduling for both Book Riot and Panels…and before that, Book Riot and Food Riot (RIP). That time opening up has given me more writing time and more time to work on other projects.

Then it’s lunch time, and when lunch time rolls around, I am usually out of the office. At least the virtual Book Riot office. By lunch, I’m frequently working on my own projects, my own writing, my own editing. Sometimes I even get the chance to read during this time. Everything I do in the afternoon is my time, since I’m not “on the clock,” and usually, my free hours end after I come home from yoga in the early evening.

Once in awhile — once a week at most, and usually far less — I like to do some work on paper. I’ll go to a local coffee spot that I’ve become obsessed with, where I bring nothing but pen and paper with me and write or plan. The amount of work I can get done in an hour there is pure magic, which is why I don’t like to do it too often. I want it there for when I really need to get things done. (It’s part coffee shop and part greenhouse and in the literal middle of nowhere and therefore, it is the best).

My evening work is different than my morning work in that the pace is different. It’s slower, for one thing, and more, it’s much heavier on the community management aspect. I’m the person keeping an eye on social media, responding to comments, moderating where necessary, and also, I’m pretty much entirely available to contributors for questions, brainstorming, or other needs. I keep this time pretty open and fluid so I can take on anything that pops up the moment that it does, but when it’s quiet, I use the time to also take necessary photos for social media, do some more work with Pinterest or Tumblr, ignore my inbox, or write.

(Above: a photo I took for one of our Book Date posts — there’s a really great arboretum near my house that I tend to get a lot of my outdoor pictures at).

Here’s why you’re here reading this Insiders piece, though. It’s not really a secret that I am an at-home zookeeper in my spare time. I’ve got three cats and, as of last summer, a bunny. This is in addition to whatever is currently taking up residence in the back yard — we’re the only fenced yard in the neighborhood and we’re lazy about cutting the grass (…here’s a life theme), so we often have stray cats, bunnies, frogs, and other sundry creatures habitating back there. This life chose me, and I’ve come to accept it means that I have a consistently messy house. My long furred cat is why we’ve had no fewer than five broken water fountains, a broken refrigerator, and regularly pull heaps of gray stuff out of the bathtub drain. The combination of bunny and cats is why so many of my books have little nibbles on them and why I have to be careful when taking photos of those books to only put the animals in those pictures when I know it’s the last one I need to take.

And I always have to mute my work-related calls on my end because every time I have one, there seems to be Kitty Indy 500 going on up and down the halls, complete with unbelievably loud shrieking and screaming.

That all laid out, here are animals pictures. Some are just animals! Some are animals and books! Enjoy & thanks for being part of Club Insiders.

Stage one of getting a bunny to take a photo with books involves chewing…

Stage two involves a bunny flailing because he was told no.

Stage three is giving up and remembering he’s an animal, not a prop, and will not always want to listen to me.

If you look closely, you’ll see the baby bunny occupying the backyard. This picture is from inside my office and she’s looking up at me and a kitty who is mewing at her. (I named this bunny Clover, if you’re wondering).

Here’s a bunny in a cat mask.

A mid-morning hangout session happening in my office. They’re discussing world economics and the lack of freely available food in the house. I suspect they’re also plotting book destruction.

We do have a shelf cat, too. She loves this set of shelves that my husband built for me. It keeps her away from the bunny, which is a bonus (though she likes the bunny).

This is the couch where I usually am reading, but as you can see, it’s being occupied by animals.

A happy animal in the sun. You’re welcome!

And one last shot of the bunny, who I’m raising to be a comic-loving feminist.

This month’s Book Riot Store deal is tote-ally awesome! (Sorry not sorry). Get 25% off the Book Riot Totes collection, including a limited number of Book Riot Logo totes available only to Insiders.


Listen Harder: Read Harder Podcast RSS Available!

For all the folks who’ve been wanting to add the Read Harder podcast to their favorite app: we got you. As of today, when you visit the podcast’s page on Insiders, you’ll see a new Subscribe option! You can grab the RSS feed there and use it to add the show to your podcatcher.

Screengrab of the Read Harder podcast page showing the new Subscribe button

A couple Qs & As:

Q: Why can’t I see the episodes and subscribe option?
A: It will only show up if you’re logged in!

Q: What apps does this work with?
A: Tried and tested: iTunes, iPhone Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Overcast, Podcast Addict, BeyondPod, Downcast. It should also work with any app that allows you to add a podcast manually via RSS.

Q: I still can’t find the Read Harder podcast by searching!
A: Since it’s a private podcast, we’re not submitting it to search results for any podcast platforms. As long as your app allows you to add a podcast by feed, you should still be good to go! Related: we know how awesome the show is, but this address is private and not meant to be shared publicly or with anyone subscribed below Novel level on Insiders.

Q: You didn’t answer my question!
A: Drop us an email and we’ll help figure out what’s up.


Happy listening!


Behind the Scenes: The Managing Editor’s Background Noise

Helllloooooo Insiders!

I’m writing this, our first Behind-the-Scenes newsletter, from my mother’s sofa. My twin boys are on Spring Break and I couldn’t handle them, pets, and working, all by myself. I’m a single mom and it can be a lot to juggle. When I get to feelin’ like it’s all a little much, I retreat to my mom’s house in rural Virginia and let her make me food and let my kids run around outside in some fields while I sit inside and talk about Toni Morrison on the internet. It’s not the worst.

Mom food. Ain’t no bacon like bacon you didn’t have to make yourself, amirite?

I did a lot of noodling about what to talk about in this first newsletter. Was initially leaning toward my Book Riot origin story, but I’ve already done a video about that for our YouTube channel and didn’t want to retread that ground, so I thought maybe just introducing you to my brood would be a good first step.

So awkward. Much side-eye. Wow.

My twins are Rhett and Atticus. Yes, those are their real names and not cutesy fake names I use for them on the internet. I didn’t even think of that option until it was too late, so whatever. The hound is Othello — so named by the SPCA because he had o’s spray-painted on his sides (a common hunter’s method for keeping track of their dogs, which obviously didn’t work with this guy). He is very un-smart and lazy and I imagine the hunter who owned him isn’t sad at having lost him, as the only thing this guy hunts is naps.

There’s also a pitbull called Lola (Tagalog for “grandmother,” so named because this dog loves kids and would pinch cheeks if she had opposable thumbs). Add in some pimento cheese, probably some whisky, and a bit of yelling about Minecraft that I 100% do not understand, and you’ve got what’s happening behind the scenes of any given work day for the Managing Editor of Book Riot.

Oh, there’s also books. Probably one of the biggest misconceptions about working where I do is that I get paid to read all day — I get paid $0 to read. I spend 10ish hours a day scheduling social media, scheduling content, wrangling 150+ contributors, managing a few staff members, recording podcasts, writing newsletters, moderating comments, writing posts, etc. So how do I find time to read? Here’s my secret: I start my work day at 6am. That’s it. It allows me to stop at 3:30 to pick up my kids from school, then read for an hour or so while they play. I make dinner, hang with them, put them to bed, read for another hour. Work for another hour. I know that’s not what people want to hear, that to fit in reading I have to start working before most people are awake, but that’s the truth.

That’s it for our first edition of Behind the Scenes! I’m @imamandanelson on Twitter if you have questions/concerns/comments, and of course I’m around on the Insiders Forum. Talk to y’all later!


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image of a Book Riot waterbottle in red, the I Read Dead People t-shirt, and the Bring Your Own Book tote bag