Wednesday, April 7, 2010

There's More Than One Way to Hook a Great Author Event--The Tale of Kelly McNees and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

There are lots of ways to book author events.

a. We can make requests through the publicity department, this is run through sales and marketing, cities are determined, and then we get the lucky call. If your store is in Boston, you get that call about six months out. If you're in Milwaukee, most of the time that call is closer to three months out when we get on the official tour.

b. We can miss the first round of touring but wind up as a sub city. Or there will be a revelation that there is an extra day in Chicago. Or another city will fall through and the rep or author will make a big case for us. Those events are booked more like two months out.

c. The author will book his or her tour on their own. Sometimes they are coming to see relatives or speaking to another group. Sometimes that event is booked 4-6 weeks out.

d. A third party will come to us and request that we sell books at their event. Some really great events happen that way, such as the two events to celebrate Alverno College's Research Center for Women and Girls. They've got Rachell Simmons on April 8th (tomorrow) and Sheryl WuDunn on April 12th. You need to pre-register. Alas, the event with Bill McKibben for Eaarth is full and the waiting list is long. However, you might be able to attend some of the films in the Making it Home festival, April 16-18.

It's not too often that the impetus for an event starts from the agent. I know a few, but no, I can't pitch your manuscript to them right now. Alas, there are a lot of other things I need to read, but I won't sign off on anything I haven't read (and there's another blog about the pitfalls of that someday).

That said, I was talking to Marly Russoff, ex-bookseller, ex-rep, ex-book-publicist (two jobs I've also done) about that Serena jacket change, and we wound up having a long conversation about all the great books she had that were coming out. Russoff's taste is impeccable and as a champion of devloping authors, she's really an independent bookseller's best friend.

One of the books she was talking about was The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, a novel about a love affair Alcott might have had that inspired the story of Jo and Laurie. She was very enthusiastic about the book, and as McNees lived in the Chicago area, maybe we could come up with something.

It's a novel about an imagined affair that Alcott may have had that influenced the story of Little Women, regarding the relationship of Jo and Laurie. One Boswellian says it best:

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, a novel by Kelly O’Connor McNees, Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, April 2010, $24.95
"As someone who owns her mother’s copy of Little Women and has read it dozens of times over the years, I could not wait to read this book. Although the story is fictional, the author has taken information from Alcott’s letters and journals to create a tale that might have happened. Most people are aware that Alcott is Jo March, but this lovely story answers the questions of who is Laurie, and why didn’t Jo marry him? It also offers up some surprising details about Alcott’s home life, and the difficulty of living with a father who believed that his ideals would be compromised by holding a steady job. Thus, it fell to Louisa, her sisters and their mother to keep the family fed and housed. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott adds a bittersweet romantic interlude to Alcott’s mostly solitary life."
--Sharon Nagel, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A couple of months later and McNees called; she was hoping to set up a stock signing.

"You're coming up here to sign stock? "Why aren't we doing an event," I replied.

McNees knew about the hesitation publishers have for events with first-time authors when there are few relatives and friends in the market. What she didn't know was that we've already had a few reads on the book, and we were very enthusiastic to put something together. The reads pull the book out of the pack. A novel playing off of Little Women. An event just before Mother's Day?

It's a great book and this is a great opportunity. We got the okay from Penguin, so we've scheduled an event for Kelly O'Connor McNees and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott for Thursday, May 6th, at 7 PM, and we'll do our best to have a nice crowd.

Full circle--the other book Marly was very excited about is from Viking. It's My Name is Mary Sutter, and it's a historical novel about a midwife who wants to become a surgeon. We're not hosting Robin the moment.

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