Meet the Editor, Publicists Speed Dating Get Raves from Booksellers, Publishers

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Booksellers and publishers reported positive experiences after participating in the American Booksellers Association’s Meet the Editor and Publicists Speed Dating events at this year’s BookExpo America. On Wednesday, May 27, more than 160 booksellers visited various publishers’ offices around New York City for an overview of the editing process; then, on Friday, booksellers and store event managers met for a series of focused meetings with publicists to introduce their stores and to explore possibilities for author events.

Andy Perham of Books Inc. in San Francisco, California, said the Meet the Editor session he attended at Workman Publishing was “fantastic.”

“It was a unique chance to meet editors who, it turns out, have worked on multiple books that I love, and to have those meetings take place at the publishers’ offices added a refreshing level of intimacy amid the hubbub of BEA,” he said. “Every bookseller that I spoke with who participated in the program found it similarly valuable.”

Likewise, Elissa Englund, the new event coordinator at Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, and the soon-to-open Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, Rhode Island, said she was extremely pleased to have participated in the Meet the Editor programming.

“Everyone I met at New Directions was welcoming, passionate, and intelligent, from the other booksellers who attended the event to the staff themselves. It was a pleasure to sit with [Web Director and Marketing Associate] Mieke Chew, [Executive Vice President] Laurie Callahan, and [President] Barbara Epler and learn about their favorite upcoming and backlist titles,” she said. “It is clear that they adore the books they publish, and their enthusiasm is infectious. The meeting was relaxed and informal, and we spent it talking about our favorite books and asking questions. Overall, it felt more like a really great book club than a networking event, and I can’t wait to go back next year.”

On the publisher side, Elise Cannon, vice president of sales at Perseus Books Group, loved getting booksellers’ takes on how to move books.

“They have a fantastic perspective on helping books sell through, whether it is jacket treatment, format, or reminding publishers and editors to include certain information, be it on Edelweiss or on the actual book itself,” Cannon said. “Sometimes, editors and publishers are too close to the project and, of course, as the sales director and the voice of the reps, I try to make sure that the marketplace feedback from the reps gets to publishers and editors. But it’s a lot of balls in the air, so having the booksellers telling the editors [was helpful].”

Other publishers that took part in the second year of Meet the Editor included Bloomsbury, Disney Publishing Worldwide, Grove/Atlantic, Hachette, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Melville House, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Seven Stories, Simon & Schuster, Sourcebooks, The New Press, and W.W. Norton.

The Publicists Speed Dating program — the first at BEA — took place at the Javits Center’s Galleria Hall and consisted of 12-minute conversations between one bookstore and one publicist at a time.

During the “dates,” ABA member bookstore owners, managers, and event coordinators had the opportunity to promote their stores and discover what publicists look for when planning author tours.

Jennifer Swihart, director of marketing for Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, said she appreciated the opportunity to meet with bookstore event coordinators — whom a distributor doesn’t normally have contact with — to pitch authors and books directly.

“Meeting with the events contacts and giving them an overview of lead authors who will be touring — and a central contact (me) whom they could follow up with if they were unsure of whom to contact at the publisher — was a great way to get to them early for the fall season, which is very competitive for events, and help them be better prepared for conversations with buyers after rep visits,” Swihart said. “It was also great to get early feedback about authors or titles that we still had time to make changes on before the reps hit the road.”

W.W. Norton Publicity Director Erin Lovett said she was able to make specific plans with a number of bookstores right at the event. “So much of our business is conducted by e-mail these days, so I find in-person meetings with booksellers to be immensely refreshing, not to mention hugely beneficial,” Lovett said. “It’s essential to be able to put a face and a name behind all the great work that’s done at independent bookstores across the country. It’s also a great opportunity to find out what new offerings each store is bringing to their events program in terms of their community outreach or relationships with large off-site venues.”

Bookseller Kenny Sarfin from Books and Greetings in Northvale, New Jersey, who met with Lovett, said he thought the event was great, but he would have liked to have been able to meet with even more publicists than the four he saw during the rapid-fire sessions.

“I think it’s a great new program for booksellers, especially those that do events,” he said. “We all have our special relationships with publicists but there are so many that we don’t know… usually we just interact with them by e-mail and phone communication.”

Michael Hermann, owner of Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, said he was able to meet with four publishers at the event.

“Some conversations were opened that we’re going to follow up on,” Hermann said. “It’s definitely easier doing it face-to-face. It’s also good for us since we’re up here in New Hampshire, so we don’t get to New York as often as folks who are closer.”

ABA Senior Program Officer Joy Dallanegra-Sanger said that, given the positive feedback from booksellers and publishers regarding the event’s first year, the association plans to expand the Publicists Speed Dating program when BEA comes to Chicago in 2016.

“We can see the potential for publishers to have multiple opportunities to meet with more booksellers and for booksellers to meet with more than three or four publicists,” Dallanegra-Sanger said.

Other publishers that participated in the Publicists Speed Dating sessions included Abrams, Bloomsbury, Candlewick, Chronicle Books, Grove/Atlantic, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Perseus Books Group/PGW, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Sourcebooks, The New Press, and Workman/Algonquin.