There’s a little gem hidden in this wonderful internet of ours, a little gem that not enough people know about. It’s called Bookshop Bistro, and today I’m going to tell why it’s awesome.
What is it?
It’s not a bookshop in the traditional sense, and it’s not a little restaurant either. It’s a blog first and foremost, with a Facebook page, and a Facebook group. I know, I know. There are hundreds of book blogs. Thousands. More than you can possibly read. The same goes for book-related groups on Facebook. There are too many to interact with them all. What makes Bookshop Bistro different though, is that it welcomes indie authors, that it encourages engagement at every level, and that it has a community that is welcoming, friendly, and lots and lots of fun!
I caught up with Tanya Jones: author, friend, and founder (and esteemed leader) of Bookshop Bistro this week, and asked her what she thought made Bookshop Bistro different. This is what she said:
When I first started looking for book groups to join, I found it really hard to find ones that were active, that heavily supported indie authors, and weren’t massively restrictive with rules. I also found them to feel a bit cliquey and I’m not big on that. I like an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and they’re not scared or intimidated to strike up a conversation or to join in an existing one.
I created the blog specifically because I found it really difficult to find book blogs that accepted guest posts. Though I’ll admit, I’m now finding it hard to find authors who want to consistently provide guest posts. Over the last year the purpose of the Group has shifted somewhat, but the underlying goal of helping indie authors will always be a strong component.
I’ve been making more of an effort to increase the engagement in the group, and though it’s been slow, it does seem to be working. I also try to work into the group the articles posted to the Bookshop Bistro blog – though this needs some improvement.
It’s my hope that it’s these components that make the Group different from others.
If you’re a reader (and I’m pretty sure you are), you’ll love it there! We talk about books and authors, there are reviews and even short stories (some of my very own, but some by a bunch of very talented authors too). It’s super friendly and everyone likes to have a good laugh. When I asked Tanya what was in it for the readers, she told me that it is:
A safe and fun environment to gain confidence interacting with FB Groups while discussing a variety of topics surrounding books. They can enjoy articles posted by others and/or post their own or share interesting ones they come across; they can join in conversations or start their own; they can share thoughts and opinions about books, ask for recommendations, and explore the many indie authors who are members. I also try to post 2 reader focused articles per week on the blog.”
What’s not to love, right?
It’s cool for authors too. It’s one of the few groups that doesn’t set out to ostracise indie-authors. “In addition to all the same benefits readers have,” Tanya told me, “it’s also an opportunity for authors to network with other authors and readers. There’s plenty of learning opportunities and the chance to practice marketing without being salesy…they can do their own FB Lives for practice, they can share marketing messages to get feedback, they can share excerpts and teasers with the intent of starting conversations.”
That said, Tanya and the other admins work really hard to maintain a balance, so that the group and the page don’t become filled with bland publicity posts and begging for sales. “We don’t allow ‘buy’ links other than on very specific posts,” Tanya said. “It’s a fine line and one with a delicate balance, but it is my hope that the authors of our Group will gain valuable insight on how to discuss their writing/books/stories in such a way that it’s not a sales pitch or asking people to buy.”
So it’s a great learning curve for authors, and awesome news for readers who are tired of having sales pitch after sales pitch thrown in their faces.
Tanya said, “for me personally, the best thing about the group would definitely be the people. I’ve created and grown some fabulous new friendships through the Bookshop Bistro Group and we have many a good laugh,” but like most communities that are just starting out, more people and more engagement would be awesome. And that’s where we come in! I asked her what we can do to help make Bookshop Bistro a success, and this is what she said:
The best way that members can help to make Bookshop Bistro a success would be to contribute and share. The old theory holds true… if you recruit 5 people and they each recruit 5 people and so on, this group would grow beyond any of our dreams. So if everyone was regularly sharing about the group to their own networks it would be a big help. Ideally a shared post should have a message with it; a call to action and a ‘why’.
And then contributions are hugely important. Part of what makes a group feel like a community is when the members are all contributing and interacting. There are so many ways that members can interact – posting links to their own blog posts; sharing their thoughts on a book they’ve read or are reading; opening discussions about bookstores and online retailers, or apps, tools and resources… commenting and replying to other people’s posts, using hashtags…
It’s a public group so anyone who finds a post (which hashtags help with) is able to see the discussions – the more interesting the conversations are the more likely people will be to join.
So come on, what are you waiting for? Join me for a chat at Bookshop Bistro!
A few other questions I asked Tanya…
Where would you like to take Bookshop Bistro in the future? Do you have any plans?
I’ve never had a clearly defined goal with Bookshop Bistro in general, other than I’d like to see it become a strong resource for indie authors to connect with readers.
It’s challenging because most authors don’t have marketing skills. So they don’t really know how to share information about their books without it ultimately being a request for people to buy. And currently we delete any posts that include a buy link.
But I think ultimately my dream would be to have hundreds of authors providing fresh articles into the Bookshop Bistro website as guest bloggers that would help to drive traffic back to their own websites; to build an email list of thousands of subscribers who are receiving weekly emails with these articles; for the group to become the central hub of conversation about the articles from the website, about books and the book industry, a bit more emphasis on marketing rather than writing and for it to be “the” group to be a part of when an indie author has a new release.
I’m not worried about monetizing any aspect of it specifically, especially if it develops into a strong collective of collaboration by contributors. Though it would be fun to eventually offer some Bookshop Bistro swag for sale. Maybe it could even turn into a funding pool to help authors with their marketing efforts!
While I’m the one who started Bookshop Bistro and I’m seen as the spearhead of it, I’m very open to ideas and suggestions. I’d love to have a handful of members who are each heading up a specific segment of the entire Bookshop Bistro structure.
Many hands make for light work and as this isn’t a “business venture” for me personally, it would be lovely to have the different personalities shining through.
Currently Caz, Maria, and my mom Pam are Admins of the FB Group with me, since they so generously volunteered and it’s been awesome to have their help moderating posts, especially for covering the different time zones.
You do a Facebook live video every Friday – do you get nervous? Do you enjoy doing them? Where do you get your content ideas from?
My Facebook Lives have certainly become a routine, I’m rather proud that I’ve been maintaining consistency on them.
I definitely got nervous at the start, which is also why they started out so short. But I wouldn’t say that I get nervous anymore. I’m very casual about them, aim to have fun, and I do really enjoy them.
I’ve tried a few approaches from totally winging it to reading from a TelePrompTer, and I’ve found a balance point in between is best. If I don’t have a plan, I ramble and repeat myself, but “reading” is so impersonal.
I started doing the FB Lives for a few reasons.
One was that I needed to practice. One of my businesses, Panoptic Foundations, is hugely focused on videos, both pre-recorded and live, so it’s something I needed to figure out.
I also think that it’s something authors could massively benefit from in their marketing efforts, so I wanted to set an example and offer encouragement for others to give it a try.
Most groups don’t allow members to do Live videos in the group and that’s never made sense to me, so our members are welcome to do them.
I struggled at first with what topics to cover. In the end I’ve ended up going with topics that I know which tend to revolve around technology and marketing and how it relates to authors. I’d like to cover more reader focused topics too, but I struggle in that area because I don’t read near as much as I’d like to and I’m really not good at book reviews.