Last year, the UK book market enjoyed one of its best sales years in over a decade and this World Book Day, we hope that love of reading is still burning bright as we interviewed author and serial entrepreneur, Seni Glaister, about her new social and e-commerce platform, Litalist.
Glaister and her team created Litalist as an alternative social platform for book lovers looking for recommendations from fellow readers, authors, publishers, and booksellers. The site helps connect readers with new pieces of literature on a platform that steps away from long form book reviews and focuses on sharing positive experiences of books that people loved.
“We are fundamentally different from other existing platforms in this market because we focus on recommending books, not reviewing them. People use the platform to discuss and share the books they enjoyed. Long form reviews, especially negative ones, have an element of toxicity to them and because a book review is so subjective, they aren’t always helpful for other readers. Someone might have loved a book and another person might not have even finished it; both reactions to a book can be right, but these massively different opinions can leave others unsure and confused. I wanted our platform to encourage people to follow like-minded readers to find books they’ll love. It’s very much a book lovers’ community where people can build online libraries and share them with other users.”
The platform’s goal is to encourage people to continue to ‘shop small’ and showcases the local, independent bookshops readers can purchase from through the site. Whilst UK publishers flourished in 2021 and secured an incredible year of paperback sales, many smaller booksellers struggled with the lack of face-to-face and in-person shopping as their physical premises were limited and e-commerce become incredibly competitive. Glaister recognised that the space in media and retail to effectively market and sell the sheer volume of books published every year is severely lacking, which often leaves indie publishers and lesser-known authors struggling to draw market attention to their publications. Having already founded and led the immensely successful book business, The Book People, and the social eating platform, WeFiFo, Glaister has over 25 years’ experience in creating and leading innovative businesses and hopes her latest venture will lead to greater accessibility for both book lovers and booksellers.
‘The purpose of Litalist is to facilitate consumer relationships between book buyers and small, independently owned bookshops. We’re not trying to put ourselves between the customer and the retailer, we’re simply hoping to enable that transaction and expand the market for readers to purchase locally. What we are already seeing happen on the Litalist site is that people are choosing to click-and-collect their purchases from book shops in their area. We wanted to create and build the infrastructure for people to discover and support local establishments through book recommendations from people they follow and connect with.”
Glaister and her team were determined to build a site that was as intuitive as possible. Users can create shelves of books they’ve either read or want to read and can follow shelves built by others. Each shelf is shoppable, allowing readers to browse book recommendations and then click to purchase the book from one of the bookshops and retailers already signed up to the site. They can also add the book to the basket and continue browsing to check out later. As people have started dedicating themselves to supporting smaller business, for both economic and ethical reasons, Litalist stands to become a competitor with mass sellers like Amazon. Much of the content on Litalist is user generated; people discover books through tags and shelves created by other users and can curate their own experience, following, liking ,and sharing the content that appeals to them.
‘I’ve always been very comfortable in the tech environment, as it’s been an integral part of all of my businesses over the years. A huge part of the development of Litalist was being able to communicate how I wanted the interface and user experience to feel and work, what I wanted it to look like, and how the e-commerce feature of the site should be fully integrated and easy-to-use. You must be so clear in your communication of what you want and what your vision is so your team know what the end goal looks like and can build it exactly as you pictured. A lot of hard work was dedicated to not only make sure the platform looks great but that the functionality and usability is very user friendly.”
Though Litalist is still in its early days, Glaister is thrilled at its initial successes as a large volume of people have discovered the site naturally, without the business releasing wide-reaching marketing campaigns yet. The platform’s shared space for both readers and bookshops has already shown great popularity with users, especially as consumers look for platforms that enable them to buy from booksellers, reinvesting in their local economies, which is often better for communities and for the environment.
“I’m very excited about the number of people who have already made profiles on Listalist. We’ve had some brilliant feedback from our early adopters, that it’s a ‘bibliophiles dream’, and they love being able to see reading recommendations from their favourite authors.”
With extensive experience establishing and growing many successful companies, Seni Glaister’s wealth of knowledge and lessons learned throughout her career emphasise the importance of building a team and surrounding yourself with people who have the skills, tools, and knowledge that you don’t. It is impossible to be an expert in everything, so seek out people who have the expertise you might be lacking.
“If you’re asking people to follow you, you must be very sure about where you are going and make sure that the people you are bringing on your journey like the destination you have in mind. It is much better to travel alone, to undertake the project alone, than to bring reluctant travellers. If everyone is fully committed to your vision, they are going to help you find the best route to your destination.”