I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Litalist’s Jon Stefani to Linda’s Book Bag today in an interview to tell me all about a brand new venture for booklovers, readers and authors everywhere which is launching later today. I’m sure you’ll agree it all sounds very exciting!
An Interview with Litalist’s Jon Stefani
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Jon.
Tell me about Litalist. How was the concept conceived?
Litalist is the brainchild of an ex-bookseller and an ex-publisher. It was created in lockdown, with the hope of addressing a couple of different problems that exist in the book world that negatively impact both readers and authors. We felt it was hard for readers to access and share authentic book recommendations from like-minded people and, at the same time we wanted to offer a hub that focussed on the local community, by offering a click and collect service from your nearest bookseller. In short, Litalist came about because we wanted to create a safe, easy space to recommend and discover books and then to shop for them in a way that that would benefit authors, readers and bookshops alike.
This sounds excellent. What makes Litalist different from other bookish sites?
Litalist aims to be distinct, but familiar. We want to take the best connective parts of social media and strip out the elements that enable toxicity. On Litalist you can engage with people’s book recommendations, you can like them, share them on social, email or by Whatsapp, you can pin shelves to your own library and follow people so you can always see their updates. What we’ve removed is the ability to message and comment directly on people’s shelves and libraries. Similarly, there are no long-form reviews for individual books (though Bloggers can link directly to their sites if they want to share their reviews with readers). We allow people to record when they read their books, what they are currently reading and what they are wishing for and – uniquely – how a book made them feel. Litalist then builds an anonymised emotional signature of a book showing what feelings it evoked, which aims to provide fresh insight into our reading that crucially moves beyond genre categorisations, which most readers recognise as a very blunt tool.
Oh indeed. I often prefer books that defy genre definitions.
In parallel to the unique functionality of the site we also come to this from a different perspective culturally. We are a cohort of UK based booksellers, publishers and writers. We are a UK business built to support local independent bookshops by enabling them to become the bookshops behind Litalist and to invite people to click and collect in store. We will help bookshops sell more book and we will be supporting authors by paying a profit share back to them on the sale of second-hand books.
We will reflect the breadth and diversity of the reading community and give everyone a chance to recommend and buy the books that mean the most to them.
This sounds very fresh and innovative. When does Litalist launch?
Litalist is soft launching this week, so all feedback will be gratefully received! We want this platform to reflect the needs of everyone in the bookselling community so, realistically, we expect to be enhancing the functionality as we learn more.
I’ve already enjoyed trying out the site Jon. I think it’s great. How do other readers sign up?
Readers can sign up at www.Litalist.com. It costs nothing to join in and we’ll verify accounts belonging to authors, bloggers or brands to ensure readers know they’re the real deal.
How do readers navigate the Litalist site?
Every user is given a library with three empty shelves, ready to be filled. And with one click they can add a new shelf and give it a title. There is no limit to the number of books on a shelf or number of shelves in a library. Shelves with lots of books are displayed as bookcases and the user can manage the shelf, add user generated tags and sort the books into different orders at the click of a button.
The mobile version of Litalist has a barcode scanner to help you quickly add a book but you can also add a book by searching by title, author or ISBN.
An example of a shelf
I found it took seconds to do this when I played with my shelves.
Users that don’t want to make recommendations can just browse the site and shop directly from the shelves or by searching for their favourite bookshelf, profile or bookseller. There’s a discover tab in the top-bar that randomly generates shelves, profiles and tags, allowing users to explore the site to look for inspiration. As tags are user generated, it is very easy to search for specific themes or content. You can pin the shelves you like to your own library, allowing your followers to see what has caught your eye.
It is very easy to share your library, a shelf or just a single book through Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook or LinkedIn and the great thing is that readers receiving these shelves can shop directly from them. Equally, if you’re a bit more shy, you can keep your library entirely private and just invite your friends and family to visit.
It really is an easily navigable and useable site in my experience.
Do booklovers have to write long reviews to participate?
Litalist invites recommendations not reviews. This is part of our drive to remove toxicity but also we think adding book reviews can be intimidating for some people. We want to make Litalist accessible and inclusive.
I think you’re right Jon. Sometimes we’ve loved a book but don’t have the emotional energy to write a lengthy review and it can become a bit of a competitive sport at times.
So, can I share my book lists to other places?
Yes, you can share your books, library and shelves via WhatsApp, Facebooks, Twitter, Linked in and email. You can generate a link to shelf as well as a Jpeg of it and share that any way you wish.
I’m a blogger. How can I steer Litalist readers from my shelves to my blog?
Litalist has a free form text section within your profile and encourages people to link to their own sites and blogs.
How do authors take part?
Authors can recommend books in the same way anyone else can but they can also use Litalist to do more. It’s a great place to promote your backlist, certainly, but also to introduce yourself to a new audience and help them get to know you. Lists of the books that you wish you’d written, or that make you want to be a writer, or that you read to your kids can open a window into your writing process. Of course you could simply recommend the books that you most often reach for in the kitchen, and that’s useful too!
Authors can also engage with the wider author community – liking, following and sharing shelves in your author cohort can encourage other author’s interaction with your own library. Make sure you share shelves to your other social media and tag the authors you’ve recommended so they know they’ve been featured.
Authors can sell their own books on Litalist! You can set yourself up as a bookseller, keep 92% of the value of any books you sell and print out pre-paid postage labels to handle the onward delivery.
We recognise that second-hand books help to make reading accessible to the widest possible audience, so we are happy to allow sales of these books on Litalist. There are a couple of very significant differences though as second hand bookselling does not always favour the author. To address this, we will share data back with authors and publishers so stakeholders can begin to understand just how many times a book changes hands and, vitally, all sales of second hand books through Litalist will offer a profit share back to the author. This payment will be administered by ALCS.
This sounds an excellent idea. Good for authors and possible good for the environment too!
Can readers buy books from Litalist?
Yes. We try to always offer a buying option for any books on site and default to the nearest physical copy to you listed by local bookshops. If no booksellers are listed, Litalist will be able to ship the book to you direct.
So we don’t need to be a bookseller to participate in sales.
Anyone can be a bookseller on Litalist, simply click to register as a bookseller and we can start the process of getting you set up – it’s quick, simple and cost-effective and as such could be a lifeline to self-published authors, those just starting out with their writing careers or authors whose books aren’t being stocked elsewhere.
Is Litalist an affiliate site then?
Litalist is not an affiliate site. People can make money by selling their own books at an industry lowest commission meaning they keep 92% of the value of any orders. There are no hidden charges, and the small commission that Litalist keeps will cover bank charges and refund processing so this offers extremely good value. We are very open to helping all sectors of the bookselling community so we will welcome any approaches from those wanting to expand the market for books.
I think Litalist has the potential to be hugely useful for readers and authors alike Jon. It sounds amazing.
What can we expect from Litalist over the next few months?
We will be listening very closely to our users and developing the site rapidly to reflect the needs of all those who want to champion authors and the wider bookselling community. We have a really exciting array of new functionality in progress already (and we haven’t even launched yet!) but, no spoilers, I think avid readers will be very pleased with the direction we are taking.
I think so too. I’ve loved my experience of Litalist so far and would encourage as many book lovers to participate as possible and provide feedback to help develop the site. Thanks so much for telling me all about it Jon.
Litalist is for people who love books. Love discovering them, reading them, and then sharing them. And what’s the one thing better than a book? A list of books, of course. A list of books to read, a list of books that made you laugh, or a list of books that took your breath away. The list of book lists is gloriously endless. Think of Litalist as your personal bookshelf. You add the books you love and then create lists to share with friends or strangers. You can browse lists created by other people and shop for books that you want to read. It’s all done by humans, not algorithms, just like a good old-fashioned book shop. And speaking of book shops, Litalist helps you buy books locally, from people who know, care, and talk about books as much as you do. It’s simple really: at Litalist, we want every book to find its own happy ending.