In an internal Random House memo, Jen Childs, director of Library Marketing, reported that the department’s latest initiative, First Look Book Club, took off to a roaring start in February, with 2,500 subscribers opting in. The club, a new book discovery tool, is an offshoot of Suzanne Beecher’s Dear Reader, which began offering five-minute chapter snippets in 2000. While many libraries subscribe to Dear Reader for a fee (it is free to library patrons), the First Look Book Club is free to all and goes direct to librarians, patrons, and “book lovers everywhere,” said Childs, with one Random House title featured each week.
Both St. Martin’s and Penguin Classics have their own versions of free Dear Reader book clubs, but Random’s is Dear Reader’s first club optimized for smartphones.
Once readers sign up, they receive an excerpt five days a week delivered to their inbox, or about 30 pages by week’s end, said Childs. “Then, if readers are hooked, they can borrow the book from their library or buy the book,” she said. Each title is linked to the Random House catalog page for purchasing options, including buying direct from Random House. Where applicable, there are links to reader’s guides and author web pages. “We will also encourage readers to reserve the book at their library,” said Childs.
Beecher writes chatty, quirky daily intros to accompany the excerpts, often including recipes, contests, and even cookie giveaways. The club’s first book was April Smith’s A Star for Mrs. Blake, followed by Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress. Red Rising was the top pick on the LibraryReads February list, the top ten titles of newly published books chosen by librarians; A Star for Mrs. Blake was number two on the January list.