Advent Book Blog: Connecting Books and Readers Locally & Worldwide

The Advent Book Blog is a very interesting project for me personally and professionally.

It exists every year for 25 days, from December 1st to 25th and delivers 5+ personal book recommendations per day from real book readers from all points on the map.

Julie “Book Madam” Wilson and I conceived of it in 2009 and Year One was a success beyond our expectations.

This year we’ve enlisted the help of Ottawa’s Carmel Purkis and her help has allowed us to take the project a few steps further.

One thing that Year Two has provided us is an opportunity to take a look at the analytics – the statistical details provided by Google that tells us who our readers are, where they are, how they’re reaching us, how much time they’re spending with us and what colour their eyes are. This allows us to contextualize that data based on our experience and make better decisions for the future.


The Advent Book Blog is basically structured to be an expression of the social web put through a book publishing filter.

Top Ten Countries Visiting the ABB

It gathers short personalized book recommendations from book lovers/book publishing people who are also involved in one or more of the social media channels – ie: Facebook, Twitter, personal blogging – and publishes those recommendations via those same channels where they are ‘liked’, reposted, re-tweeted and re-blogged in a viral bleed from follower to follower.

This process used to be called word of mouth and as anyone with any history in bookselling will tell you, it’s always been the best way to market and promote a book or writer.

Word of mouth had the ability to travel some distance but it mostly hovered in concentrated areas where influencers could share their enthusiasms with the locals. Bookstores and newspapers were hubs for word of mouth recommendations back in the day.

The books that a store carried were selected to strike a careful balance between the works that they knew would sell in sufficient quantities to keep the doors open and those titles that they felt passionate enough about to handsell to customers who were open to suggestion.

Independent bookstores were/are social hubs where the discussions and recommendations about great books, ideas & writers exists in a continual exchange between bookseller and customer.  When they’re both reading deeply and widely and they’re both open to new ideas, magic can happen.

Top 5 Mobile Devices Accessing the ABB.

The Advent Book Blog is designed to create a similar effect for sharing books and ideas in a world where independent bookstore hubs are becoming increasingly rare.

Box stores that sell books don’t count as social or idea hubs. And big centralized traditional media end-of-the-year Top Ten/Top 100 lists don’t really count, either, as they’re assembled by a handful of people and disseminated via outbound channels only.

They don’t allow their readers to participate in the creation of their lists.

The weekend books-only newspaper editions are gone, replaced by the 24/7 availability of book info via the ubiquitous mobile device.

Authentic word of mouth for books and writers has moved online to independent voices, real people with individual tastes and opinions.

The Advent Book Blog tries to aggregate some of those voices and focus it within a specific time frame – December 1st to 25th.


Where Our Traffic is Coming From.

The Advent Book Blog has been reasonably successful in using the social media channels to connect people over vast distances to book and writers that they may never have heard of or seen before.

By acting as a hub with many spokes connecting further and further outward via several personalized reference points beyond the blog itself the Advent Book Blog has become a viral messenger serving several constituents at the same time.

Some of those constituents include: the book’s author and publisher, the person making the recommendation and their various projects or other details listed in their short bio.

All of this is food for the web – Google’s efficient and invisible spiders – with all of these indicators leads people to and from the blog along various information tangents.

By showcasing readers in new and interesting ways, the Advent Book Blog gives people who are book lovers but who may not be directly involved with the publishing process – or employed as a reviewer – a chance to lend their voice, show off their tastes, their favorite books, even their hometown, to people around the country, continent and world.


ABB Get Props from Canadian Bookshelf.

So, the Advent Book Blog has succeeded in being connected.

People are reaching our site from 412 cities in 55 countries around the world. My sister, Nancy Cranbury, accounts for 3 of those countries alone – Papua New Guinea, United Arab Emirates & Kuwait.

Don’t ask;)

What’s most interesting to me is that the greater concentration of visits to the blog come not from the traditional publishing centres but rather the centres of local influence by the creators of the Advent Book Blog and are generally ranked proportionally to population density.

Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa (Julie, Sean & Carmel, respectively) holding down the top 3 spots before New York City jumps in at #4.

We’re connecting locally and spreading outward virally across borders, oceans & continents.

We’re reaching and hopefully influencing readers in all of these places.

All of these analytics mean nothing if we don’t see valued evidence of our connectedness among our blogging peers.

We can see this in mentions on other respected websites like Kerry Clare’s Pickle Me This and the influential Canadian Bookshelf.

These mentions and references are helping to push the books, writers and publishers featured in the Advent Book Blog further toward reaching new audiences across town and across the world.

And it’s happening not because a major centralized media outlet decided to broadcast its taste to the globe – and writers & publishers jockeyed to win their favour so  that they might benefit from this centralized broadcast – but because the Advent Book Blog functions as a platform for the tastes of real readers who care about books and who are alive in the world without being tied to the outcome of their recommendation.

It’s about enthusiasm and it shows in the numbers.

Oh… and that’s only for the first 14 days of this year’s project!

A Look at the Cities of the World That Are Accessing the Advent Book Blog.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.


  • Reply December 14, 2010

    Julie Wilson

    Nice one, Sean!

  • Reply December 14, 2010

    Nancy Cranbury

    Love following the Advent Book Blog! My hardcore lightweight carry-on defences might well be breached by a real book before long! BTW, might have kept the numbers up from Brisbane as well..

  • Reply December 15, 2010


    My theory has always been to start local and build out from there. Interesting to see how your individual locations play into the data here.

  • Reply December 15, 2010

    Sean Cranbury

    @Julie: Thank you. We make a pretty good team! (And thanks to Carmel for ‘getting it’ right out of the gate and doing a great job.)

    @Nancy: Thanks for being such an avid fan! You’re our idea reader: intrepid, literate, digitally connected and likely to be on three different continents in any given week! I’m hoping that if you can’t shoehorn a book into your luggage that you’re at least availing yourself of an ebook or two for your iPad or whatever gadget you’re employing these days.

    There, I said it. I said it! I hope that you’re reading an ebook. OMFG, what has become of me!

    @Monique: Great advice. The data is really interesting. I’ll share it with you when we’re done the project. I’d be interested to hear your interpretation of what some of the numbers might mean and how they might influence our planning for next year.

    Happy holidays everyone!

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