What makes a good Call Me Ishmael voicemail?

We’re often asked how we choose which calls to feature. While there’s no one answer, no magic formula, no step-by-step guide, we have figured a few elements that many of our best calls have in common. Think of this list as a compass, not a map.

We love calls that:

1. Take listeners on a journey.

Just like a great book, a compelling call often has a narrative arc that is full of character, conflict, surprise, transformation and resolution. One of our first calls about The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is a stellar example.

2. Tell a personal story.

Voicemails with a specific tale are far more intriguing than plot summaries, character analysis or book reviews. Feel free to mention these elements if you see fit, but great calls focus on a bibliophile’s unique experience with a book. Our much-loved call about The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss illustrates this expertly.

3. Share an undeniable moment of wonder, epiphany, confession or truth.

Did a certain part of a book lead you to a great realization about your life? Does one character make you laugh out loud? Perhaps a book’s ending had you sobbing in public. Many of our best calls are about one specific, unforgettable moment with a book, like this one about Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

4. Speak from from the heart.

It’s okay to collect your thoughts beforehand, but try not to sound like you’re reading from a script. Authenticity trumps perfection. If it comes out wrong, you can always call back. This call about The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack is one of our most authentic.

5. Employ humor, emotion and opinions.

One of the best parts about listening to our calls is the constant reminder that there are infinite ways to read any one book. We love hearing readers’ personalities and thoughts shine through. This call about Animal Farm by George Orwell is an excellent example.

6. Leave viewers wanting to read the book for themselves.

You know how to tell your tale far better than anyone else does. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let your story out.

Not sure what to call about? Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Call about the best book you’ve ever received as a gift

  • Call about a book that came into your life in an unconventional way

  • Call about the book that was your favorite as a kid

  • Call about the book you reread over and over again

  • Call about the book you would make required reading for every human

  • Call about the hardest book you’ve ever read

  • Call about the book that made you want to change your career

  • Call about the book that first made you a diehard reader

  • Call about the book that made you cry (or laugh out loud)