Monday, June 23, 2014

Amid Industry Layoffs Journalist Starts New Business That Helps Book Lovers Find Great Reads

Today I present an interview with the man behind The Fussy Librarian, Jeffrey Bruner. He's a veteran newspaper journalist in Des Moines, Iowa who has turned his ambitions toward running an ebook recommendation email service for readers.

The Fussy Librarian offers its subscribers daily book recommendations based on their interests and content preferences. I can say myself that I picked up a great read last year when I subscribed to the fledgling service.

Authors whose books qualify for advertising space at The Fussy Librarian enjoy transparency about the size of his audience. Bruner discloses precise subscriber numbers in total and by category.

I invited him to answer some questions at Her Ladyship's Quest because his service should be of interest to my audience of book lovers and authors.

What gave you the idea to start a book recommendation email newsletter?

A few other people had been doing them, but I realized none offered a matching service — they sent out lists of books. So I came up with the idea of letting readers set content preferences on profanity, violence and sexual content. That way, if your mom prefers books without swearing, she only gets those. And if you read everything, we can send you all of the books each day.

One of your newsletters talked about all the layoffs you've survived in your newspaper career. How much did this contribute to your decision to start your own business The Fussy Librarian?

It was a significant factor. The company I work for has been laying off journalists for nine years now, cutting payroll in order to maintain profit margins. In the end, it came down to either creating my own backup plan and become my own boss or I could continue to wake up each morning wondering if today was going to be the day I lost my job. It wasn’t a tough decision :)

The number of amazing and kind people I’ve met since launching the website last October has only reassured me that I made the right decision.

I've been reading your newsletter for a few months now and been impressed with your writing. Have you written any novels?

Thank you. Yes, I’ve written one novella (“Signs and Wonders”) and one novel (“Finding Grace”), both under the pen name Alex Adena. I’m going to reissue both under my own name one of these days. I’ve also had two plays produced (“Katrina: State of Emergency” and “Camp Angel”) and have a few unproduced screenplays gathering dust.

You've stated a commitment to keeping your advertising rates affordable for authors. Do you think some of your larger competitors charge too much? Especially considering we're selling items that are typically $5 or less, even free.

I won’t name names, but yes, I think some of my competitors are too expensive and others aren’t as transparent as they should be. If you subscribe to The Fussy Librarian’s author newsletter, I include the numbers for each genre every week so you know exactly what you’re getting for your money.

But yes, I try to keep the fees affordable because I know authors aren’t wealthy people. All of the revenue is going back into the site right now, most of it for marketing. We have about 14,000 subscribers now, but I want to grow — the bigger the site, the more it benefits authors.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would just like to encourage ebook readers to check us out and give us a try. We have a great assortment of wonderful ebooks every day that you are going to love.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish The Fussy Librarian much success.