Last night I was trolling through our increasingly full Google calendar and was struck by a couple of things:
1. Wow, we have amazing authors
2. Wow, we’re really moving the needle on the author event
It’s the latter I want to address, because I think it’s important for authors and publishers to address as we continue to move into a more challenging time for book sales. A hundred years ago, about 10,000 books a year were published in the U.S. Now it’s about 300,000—not counting self-published titles, which could be as high as a half-million a year. How does the non-celebrity author get anyone besides her parents and college roommate to notice her book?
At Prospect Park, we see lessons from the music industry. The parallels are not exact, but it’s clear that live performances have grown greatly in popularity and are about the only thing saving the industry. Authors don’t “perform” the way musicians do, but we’re seeing increasing success with events that are more interesting that an author standing in a bookstore reading a hunk from chapter 4. People want to connect in person with authors and their books; we publishers and authors need to come up with creative ways to make that happen.
We don’t have a lot of money to burn, so we work with our authors to be as inventive as possible. And, of course, we factor in the audience for the book, the topics a book covers, and the author’s personality. Is he an introvert who’ll do best being interviewed by a thoughtful host? Is she a rehearsed performer who thrives in the spotlight? Can we find a free/cheap venue that’s so cool that it will attract an audience? If it’s a bookstore event, how can we make it stand out from the typical reading? Can we pair two or three authors, even if they’re not all “ours”? What are the book festivals, parties, performance series, and other happenings in a community that our author might be a good fit for, even if it’s not specifically about his or her book?
Here are some upcoming events that will go beyond the standard reading:
— A three-author party in Santa Barbara this Monday at a cool winery, where columnist and author Starshine Roshell will lead a lively conversation with our Karen Rizzo and the very popular Berkley author Jenna McCarthy (yes, competing publishers can and should get along and do more of these events together)
— An artistic September bookstore event at Skylight: David Ulin interviewing Barbara Thomason, artist/author of 100 Not So Famous Views of L.A., which will include a gorgeous slide show of her paintings
— A Drink & See happening this November at Future Studio in Highland Park, home base for book designer extraordinaire Amy Inouye, to celebrate our two new L.A. books, Drink: Los Angeles and 100 Not So Famous Views of L.A.
Good ones from the past include:
— Jennie Cook’s recent visit to her aunt’s “active-living” senior community in Florida, where she shared tips for keeping vegans and carnivores happy at the same table, made it a party, and sold tons of cookbooks
— Suzanne Greenberg’s visit with librarians at the recent ALA conference in Las Vegas, a follow-up to her novel Lesson Plans being chosen as a Spring Editor’s Pick by Library Journal
— A series of “Punch Parties,” in which writers and comics got on stage and shared the things they most want to punch in the face, hosted by Things I Want to Punch in the Face author Jennifer Worick
— Lian Dolan’s lively, funny, sell-out luncheon talks (with lots and lots of her novels sold) at several clubs, including the Valley Hunt Club, L.A. Country Club, and Altadena Town & Country Club
— Vulture Verses author Diane Lang’s remarkable number of visits (with pet tarantula) to elementary schools and nature centers
— Judy Rothman, author of The Neurotic Parent’s Guide to College Admissions, bringing much-needed levity to otherwise-anxiety-producing high school parent events featuring college admissions directors talking about how hard it is to get into good colleges
— A rockin’ food-truck party (when the food-truck thing was just taking off) to celebrate the first edition of EAT: Los Angeles
These are just some of the kinds of events we’re producing to help our author’s books get noticed, as well as to help build the community of the book wherever our authors are—often Southern California, but also Alabama, Maryland, New York, Oregon, and Washington. We’re always looking for new ideas: a party in a library, a demonstration in a cookware shop, a book-club gathering in a private home, a speaking gig at a university, a fundraising book party in a restaurant… the possibilities are many, and our authors are so deserving.