Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Organize Thy Books!

January 21, 2011 Bloggiesta 119

It’s practically impossible to be a successful book blogger unless you have some sense of organization, from how you keep track of the review copies  you receive down to how you organize your bookshelves.  This post & mini-challenge will help you better organize your books!

Organization starts the instant you receive a pitch for a book.  Keep track of those pitches somehow!  I personally use an Excel spreadsheet saved in Google Docs, which grants me access to my files anytime & anywhere! Here are some of the things you should keep in this spreadsheet:

  • Date pitch received
  • Publicist Name
  • Book Info (Title, author, publication date)
  • Date book was received
  • Date review is scheduled to post
  • Date review is posted
  • Link to review
  • Date link to review sent to publicist

Mind you, these are just suggestions!

When I’m considering a pitch, I always consult my Google calendar on which I schedule all my reviews.  Within minutes I know if I’m able to accept a pitch for a book, based on the release date.  While I’m in the calendar, I go ahead and add the book to my calendar, typically within a week of the review date.

Organizing your books once they arrive is the next step!  Be it Goodreads, Librarything, or Shelfari, I always think it’s best to have your library organized somewhere virtually.  I personally use Librarything the most because of the many labels I can assign to books.  For example, I use the following labels: review copy, to be reviewed, read & own, read & not owned, library copy, etc.

Now, there’s no sense in getting organized if you can’t have fun doing it!  A few years ago, I invested in a CueCat, a USB barcode scanner you can use to scan your books directly into your Librarything library! It also allows you to scan your books into other web sites like Bookmooch, Swaptree, Paperbackswap, etc.   Adding your books to your virtual library will only take minutes (ok maybe hours!) instead of days! A great investment for a mere $15!

When I receive review copies in the mail, I follow these steps:

  1. Mark book as received in review database
  2. Add book to my Librarything library
  3. Check review calendar for review date.  If none, assign one
  4. Write review date on post it & affix to cover of the book
  5. Add book to my review copy bookshelf, by date of review

Yes, I have a bookshelf devoted to review copies!  This prevents review copies from getting lost among the hundreds of other books I own.  It’s not a fancy bookshelf or anything, just a small cube-shaped four shelf bookcase from IKEA. Since I generally have review copies up to 6-8 months before publication date, two months worth of books fit on one shelf. This bookshelf sits at the end of my chaise lounge so it is within reach at all times.

Looking back on this post, it might appear that keeping yourself organized is a time-consuming task.  I assure you it is not!  Once you get used to this routine it’s a piece of cake!  On average, I spend about 30-45 minutes per week organizing my books and I’m a little on the obsessive side.

Many of these tips will also help you in organizing your TBR (to-be-read) books, whether or not they are review copies.

So, how do you organize your books or review schedule?  Comment below & become eligible to win a publisher-sponsor prize! Go forth and organize!

Interested in participating in Bloggiesta & some of the other mini-challenges? Check out Maw Books Blog to learn more!

119 Responses to “Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Organize Thy Books!”

  1. Kyanara_night

    I organize my bookshelves by subject of the book.
    The sunject I have right now are
    Mixed creatures
    I organize my series starting with the first book, ending with the last.
    I also use Goodreads to keep track of what I read and what I still need to read.
    That is pretty much how I work/

  2. Rebekah
    Twitter: aurelialit

    I do a little of what everyone has mentioned I guess. I do have a google spreadsheet which is probably far more complex than it needs to be, but for now it works. I also keep on separate tabs a list of interviews, contests or other promotions I’m doing with author’s and the status and notes on that. I add everything to a shared calendar in google, because I have a second reviewer that I work with, and the spreadsheet is shared as well. I also keep all correspondence starred until the review is done and the publicist or author has been notified.

    I add books I’m currently reading and then when done add review and organize by shelf on goodreads. Some of my unread or previously read books are on there but definitely not all of them.

    My physical collection is much more organic…shall we say. Usually my most recently received books are in one pile and the next several in my review cue in another. My bookshelves are a mess. I keep non-fiction in the bedroom (office area) and fiction in the living room, I have one bookshelf for books on writing and one for YA, but other than that….it’s a free for all. lol. Moving next month though, so that should provide some opportunities to get things straightened. Although I don’t think I’ll ever be the alphabetical type.

  3. Jan von Harz

    These are some fabulous ideas. I am definitely going to get started organizing myself. I really like the spreadsheet idea for review copies. Thanks. I am also going to check out Librarything.

  4. Pam (@iwriteinbooks)

    Wow, I love the Cue Cat!

    I am more of a Library gal than an ARC person but lately I’ve signed on with TRish for a few blog tours and I need to get things organized. I’ve always used Librarything and Goodreads but they’re not as user friendly as I want them to be. I have always had my Word doc reading lists but those are more about what I have to read/buy/loan and what I have already finished.

    I’m going to try to get something going in Excel this weekend, I think, although, maybe not quite as detailed as yours! ;O)

    Oh, I’m also finding that with ARCs, library piles and bought books from the holidays, I’m needing to set up a physical “TBR” shelf. More on this, later…

  5. Anna

    WOW this is a beautiful system you’ve got going. I’m super type-A, so I’m in awe! I’ve got a massive Google calendar going that tracks my posting dates, and I keep a blog notebook in my purse at all times to track everything else (to-do lists, received lists, ARC schedules, etc.) because I’m running around town a lot and want to be able turn to something quickly if I need to make a note/look something up. But I’m definitely going to incorporate some of your great strategies–thanks for sharing!

  6. Angela

    I don’t get many books for advanced review, but I do have a TBR Google spreadsheet. I keep track of title/author, publication date, where I found the book (so I can credit the blogger that inspired me to pick up the book, if applicable), and when I requested the book from the library/purchased it. Also columns for when I read the book and when the review is scheduled. Glad to know I’m basically on the same page as someone else!

    I’m trying to figure out if I can or want to use Goodreads to help organize my reviews. When I remember, I write up a quick review on Goodreads so my initial thoughts are saved until I have time to write the full review for my blog. I used to have a ton of shelves/tags on Goodreads, but since I started blogging I really just use the current reading/read shelves. Not sure if anyone else really cares about what I’ve marked as to-read, and I don’t want to make double the work for myself!

  7. Amused
    Twitter: amusedbybooks

    Can I just say this post was fascinating/inspiring to read? I am an organized person at heart to and I just can’t get my review copies under control. Right now my system is to keep them next to my bed in the order in which I received them and I read them first come first serve. However, I am starting to not be able to find my bed there are so many! I think a bookshelf would be a perfect fix for the non-immediate TBR books just for review copies and I should get a scanner – that would make it so much quicker to add the data in to the sites I use! Thanks again for the tips!

  8. Amberdenise

    I have a list of books that I have completed for each year through googledocs, but I never thought to make a document for my To Be Read pile. I’m going to have to make that list today. My TBR pile is already getting long. :O)

  9. Dusky Literati
    Twitter: duskyliterati

    I use a few tools to keep my 4,800+ library organized. My main tool is Book Collectorz that I use on my home computer. It is a very detailed cataloging tool. I use a barcode scanner, that can has a 500 book memory. There is also an iPhone app so that way when I’m shopping for books, I can always double check what is in my library or what is on my wishlist.

    I also utilize LibraryThing which has about 95% of my library online.

    I use GoodReads only as a reading journal of books read.

    The bookshelves in my library are organized by genre and then within that it is either sub-genre or alphabetically. So for example Biographies are alphabetized but Science is by subject and then alphabetized.

  10. Cathy

    wow! Your google doc spreadsheet idea is wonderful! I use Steno notebooks and sometimes it’s a pain in the butt writing everything down. And then I jot notes down in a random place and sometimes I am a frazzled mess. I do have some organization but I seem to make things harder than they actually have to be! I am going to get cracking on my google doc spreadsheet now!

    I also have a bookshelf reserved just for review copies. Then once the book is read and if I keep it, it goes into a specific order I have for my other books. All series and authors stay together then the rest of the books are placed in alphebetical order.

    Thank you!!

  11. Jennifer-Girls Gone Reading
    Twitter: girlsgonereadin

    I organize my books to read in my Google calendar. As soon as I get a pitch I check my calendar to see if I will have time to read it and review it. I have two book cases devoted to TBR and review books. I need to get more though…You helped me when I started blogging in May and WOW are there a lot of books in this house in a few short months.

    I am looking into adding some more bookshelves to organize by date and type. EXCITING! I am OCD and love organization :)

  12. Ruth @ Bookish Ruth

    I would be lost without LibraryThing. It makes organizing my reading so much easier. I tag all of my unread books as “unread” so when I’m looking for a new book to read, I just click on that tag and I’m presented with all of my unread books.

    I have my physical bookshelves organized according to genre: children’s fiction, young adult, mystery, historical fiction, etc. If I have enough books that follow a theme, I will shelve those books together. (For instance, I have at least 40 books related to Sherlock Holmes. Those books are all shelved together even though they’re a mix of the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes stories by other authors, non-fiction books about Holmes or Doyle, as well as some children’s and young adult books.)

    When I start accepting review copies again, I’m going to dedicate a separate shelf for my review copies as you’ve suggested. I also think Google Calendar is a great idea — I use one to keep my personal appointments organized and need to start utilizing GC for my blog again now that I’ll be blogging regularly.

  13. Chrystal

    Right now I don’t have the best setup. I use a word file with the names of books and authors and I just put them in order of when I received them.

    I wanted to make a better organized system as I feel like I am falling behind and you make it sound so much easier than I thought.

    I also love your little barcode scanner. :)

  14. melissa
    Twitter: thecatcheronrye

    Mostly I have been reviewing for fun, books that I get myself, not ones that HAVE to be reviewed, so I have just been organizing using goodreads. My home book shelves (cute folding ones from pier one that move around to every apt Ihave lived in) USED to be organized, but are in need of some help in that area…but since I plan to be moving this Summer (to a house!!) I’m not going to worry about it that much yet…since I need to combine my apt books with the books I have been keeping at my parent’s house all this time. I plan to have MORE bookshelves!!! lol But I mostly group my books, all YA/kids books in ABC order by author in one room and my other books in ABC order by author in the other. This post did inspire me to DL a book app…called “Bookapp” for my iphone, so I can use it if I do get reviews and I can plot them out using it. Has anyone used this app before, it had the best ratings of the ones I found but I haven’t played with it much yet.

  15. Vicki S.

    Wow, this was a great exercise! I’ve got nearly a month planned ahead and it only took about an hour. Thanks for the wonderful advice, I’ll be sure to keep my spreadsheet up in the future!

  16. Madigan

    Incredible! I love that cue cat. Cute, and functional, how awesome.
    I used to think I was pretty organized about reviews… until I saw your post!
    I do have a shelf that I devote to review copies. Makes it easy for me to grab them when I’m looking for something to read next. Then, I have another shelf for books I’m finished reading that I intend to give away — usually to a library or other charity.

  17. Julie

    I like the way you organize your books, too. I really need to do that with my review books. I wish there was a notepad in Kindle to organize my NetGalley books. I’m going to check out CueCat. I need that for LibraryThing! Thanks for the suggestions.

  18. Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

    Right now, I’m not accepting new books for review until March. This will help me get a handle on the review books that I already have and give me time to read from my own personal TBR pile. I have an organization method that I’m honing that seems to work for me. Like you, I use Google calendar to organize my reviews. If a request comes in for a blog tour or a specific period of time for a review, I check the calendar first (after seeing if the book is one that I think I would like to read and review). After I agree to the review, I put a date in to actually read the book and give myself two reminders set for 1 day and 2 days before I have the book scheduled to read (I also do this for the review date). With ARC’s, I will schedule within two weeks before or after the release date. I include the contact information if the request came via email, and I also have a separate folder in Gmail for each review book.

    For physical organization:

    I do have a separate space for review books. I have a great wooden desk. The left side has a slide-out shelf on top of a drawer and I put all of the review books on that shelf (which is currently full with two separate piles, which is how I know I need to stop accepting them right now). Once I’ve read a book that I plan to review, it goes to the right side of my computer monitor, where I can easily grab it and write a review a day (just started this at the beginning of the year) – I only post a review every other day, so there are reviews that have been written but not posted, which helps when I don’t have time to sit and write a review from scratch. Books that have reviews written but not posted go to the left side of my monitor. I also add each book to Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari as they physically come in to the house.

    I don’t pre-schedule reviews for books other than ARC’s that don’t have a firm review date; I like the flexibility of being able to pick up a book that I’m in the mood for (since I do a mix of genre reviews) and read and review at relative leisure.

  19. Callista
    Twitter: callista83

    I’ve tried it all different ways. I tried writing it down as I got them but never remembered. Then I tried keeping a file of the papers that come with most review books (excerpt, author info etc.) with date I received book written on it but that didn’t work either. Then I just put date I received book on those papers and left them in between pages of books and put them on shelf in order received but that didn’t work.

    I don’t get a lot of books BEFORE publish date so I’d rather review close to order I get them but I also read them based on what type of book I’m interested in at the moment.

    I just went through shelf, got rid of stray papers I don’t need, took out books that I had read and were on wrong shelf, took out a few really old review books I’d tried reading a few times but never got into and put in pile to give away. I give up on those. Looks much better. I will still be trying a new way to keep track of when they come in, where they come from, when I’ve read/reviewed etc but I’m more organized for now at least. Thanks.

  20. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    I organize my review copies in a similar way. I keep most of my review copies on the same bookshelf with a post-it note on the covers of their pub date or the blog tour date. Instead of using a spreadsheet, I have a paper calendar that I use just for my blog. I pencil in the titles of the ARCS while also writing down the date of every post I write. That way I can easily see when the last time I posted a bookish post or a review without getting on the computer.

  21. The1stdaughter (Danielle)
    Twitter: The1stdaughter

    Fantastic challenge! Loved it! I have my review database all set to go and keep being added to. It’s definitely going to help in conjunction with my Google Calendar. Also, I love that Cue Cat! Makes things so much easier if you can just scan it in! This is going to be so helpful for me going forward, especially with managing two sites and a couple of other businesses. Crazy! Thank you so much!

  22. Melissa
    Twitter: feministtexican

    Okay, that CueCat is seriously the coolest thing ever! I NEED ONE! I’ve had a LibraryThing for ages, but I rarely use it because I hate typing in all the book info to find the right edition and stuff. Granted, I do that with Goodreads, but once is enough! 😉

    I use a similar method spreadsheet to keep track of my ARCs. Actually, I use one Excel file with several different sheets: one with contact info for all the different publishers, one to keep track of ARC info, etc. On my soon-to-be-read bookshelf, I also put post its with the publication date on my ARCs so that I’ll stay on top of my reading and keep track of deadlines.

  23. lvng.books
    Twitter: lvngbooks

    Wow that seems like an awesome way to organize! I started using Google Calendar after reading your post, but I like the idea of a spreadsheet, too. I guess I’m not ready yet!

    I do have my book closet/shelves organized.. It may not be logical to anyone else, but for me it works! I have a book closet with 10 ‘cubes’, in which I keep my books. 1 cube holds my DVD player and DVDs, so I only have 9 cubes left. Er, and I have a stack of books on my desk and a box of books besides my bed. Guess I need a new addition to my book storage system 😉

    I have:
    – 1 cube with DVD player + DVDs
    – 1 cube with cook books and a couple of books I’ve read in school
    – 4 cubes with chicklit and other adult fiction books A-Z
    – 1 cube that holds all my Harry Potter books (except for Harry Potter Film Wizardy, which doesn’t fit)
    – 1 cube with vampire books (YA)
    – 1 cube with magic ‘in general’ (YA)
    – 1 cube with YA books that I’ve all read

    My unread books are in the stack on my desk and in the box besides my bed. Some are in my book closet, but atm I know exactly which books I haven’t read yet. Again, it may not make sense to anyone else, but it does to me!

    Now I’m gonna go off to install a Google spreadsheet! 😀

  24. Sas (Tea Mouse)

    Woo, I got some awesome organisation done of all my books! Thank you, this was an excellent idea! I feel so super organised now… wow.

  25. Kris

    Love how organized you are with the review books! I keep the emails with the pitch in a specific folder in gmail, and when the books arrive I put them in a word doc, which I print out every couple of months and put with my review books so I know what book is next. The problem is, I’m not always so good at following that list in order. haha! The barscan device really has my interested. I’ve been interested in a device for awhile..but haven’t done the research to see if any were cheap enough. Now I’m going to have to see if I can use a barscan device with microsoft access since that’s where I keep track of my books.

  26. Leeswammes (Judith)
    Twitter: leeswammes

    Brilliant suggestions!

    Well, I’m saying that because I follow mainly the same procedures as you! I actually do this for ALL books I get (buy, borrow, etc.).

    Only I haven’t used google calendar to schedule as the most review books I’ve had at one time is 6 or so.

    But I do enter review books in Excel (I have almost the same columns as you!), enter all books in Shelfari and keep all unread books together on a shelf.

  27. Tif
    Twitter: tiftalksbooks

    I really have no specific organization procedure! I no longer accept books for review and now choose my reads completely by what I feel like at that moment. I do have separate shelves for those that are TBR. And, I have begun a calendar to map out posts. So far, so good on that end! We’ll see how it continues to go!

  28. Crystal F
    Twitter: cfulcher

    I worked on this some yesterday inspired by your post. I now have my books for the next several months in order on the bookshelf beside my bed. I also have notecards in the telling me what date I plan to review (also there to take notes on) and also I have update a google spreadsheet and my google calendar. Doing all of this has really inspired me and made me ready to jump back into my blog so thanks for the great inspiring post! Oh and the hubby is happy too because it no longer looks like books are totally taking over our bedroom :)

  29. Jessica Lawlor

    Wow! That’s an incredible organization system.

    Mine isn’t as detailed, but it definitely keeps me organized.

    My inbox is full of emails that I either haven’t responded to, or am waiting to post a review to eventually send a link to. Anything that is in my inbox is something I need to do and it’s a constant reminder.

    I also use Google Tasks to keep track of my post ideas, when I’m posting certain reviews, to-do list items. That definitely keeps me sane.

    As far as my actual bookshelf, my top shelf is dedicated to review copies/books I’ve bought but haven’t read yet.

  30. Cindy(Cindy's Love Of Books)

    Jenn I borrowed your idea for the google doc and twecked my form a little and after spending a little time with you I already feel a little better and not so overwhelmed.

    Great tips and I am thinking I might end up getting that cuecat very soon.

  31. Carina (Reading Through Life)
    Twitter: readthroughlife

    I do a lot of the things you mention in your post! I use LibraryThing to organize my books, as well as an Excel sheet to keep track of review copies and publishing dates. I also use my Google Calender to plan and schedule posts and generally keep track of what I need to do or have already done.

  32. Barbara (Basia's Bookshelf)
    Twitter: basiasbookshelf

    I use Goodreads to keep track of books when they come in and the archaic method of brightly colored pens on a special wall calendar above my desk that lets me know when books are scheduled for release (for ARCs and things) and when I have review deadlines.

    Just yesterday, I organized every single unread book I have into the order I need to have them read in (at Goodreads in an ascending list), allowing that there are going to be books coming in that will have to be squeezed in. I imagine when Bloggiesta dies down, I’ll work on a spreadsheet system.

  33. Heather

    As of right now, I have not received any books; however, when I begin to get them, I will remember your ideas!

  34. Terry Doherty

    You are so right about the scanner. I use Collectorz and a scanner. Collectorz returns a ready-made spreadsheet without having to type in lots of stuff. The database comes with labels (or you can add) for ARC, who it was received from, etc. I export it as text and then upload it both goodreads and librarything. Done.

    I keep one “table” just for the books that come in and a master table with all of the books we’ve received and/or processed.

  35. Vicky

    That sounds like a great system! Thanks for the tip :) I’ll need to start organizing my review copies into an Excel file too!

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