Austin SCBWI @ BookPeople: Working with Your Independent Bookseller

Austin, TX — BookPeople events coordinators Mandy Brooks (in the BP T-shirt) and Alison Nihlean (in glasses) led a wonderful and informative question-and-answer session about “Promotions & Events” Saturday at the Austin SCBWI meeting at the store.

Mandy’s specialty is books published for children and young adults, and Alison’s specialty is books published for adults.


The store receives 1,000 to 1,200 requests for potential events and hosts 200 to 300 each year.

In deciding which events to select, considerations include: (a) a local connection; (b) the author’s history; (c) the book’s subject matter; (d) the quality of the book.

Fall–September through November–is the high season for events. If a book is coming out then, it’s best to approach them well in advance. Note: due to the holiday shopping rush, most bookstores try not to schedule events in December.

Make an appointment. They’re always happy to say a quick “hi” informally in the store. But if you’re interested in getting on their schedule, write first and set up a meeting so that everyone involved has time to thoughtfully prepare.

[Cyn Note: Respect that booksellers are busy people].

An optimal time for launch parties is within the first two weeks of a book’s release date, perhaps a week later so that there is an opportunity to create floor displays.

Launch parties should be special and fun!

An example of a book with a lot of neat tie-in potential–light sticks, bright T-shirts, glowing punch–is The Day-Glo Brothers by debut author Chris Barton, which will launch at 1 p.m. July 11 at BookPeople.

Mandy also mentioned YA author Jennifer Zeigler‘s dress-up contest for the How Not To Be Popular (Delacorte, 2008) launch, Brian Anderson‘s amazing custom-made piñata for the Zack Proton graphic chapter book series (Aladdin) launch, and debut author Shana Burg‘s hiring of musicians from The Continental Club for the launch of A Thousand Never Evers (Delacorte, 2008).

They emphasized: “You want things that will make people stop, pause, and watch.”

Another great idea–if the book is a good fit–is to partner with a local non-profit organization (to, say, raise money for an animal shelter or for cancer research).

Throughout the discussion, Alison and Mandy were entertaining and upbeat. It was clear how hard they work and how they make a special effort to both support local authors and offer the warmest possible welcome to those visiting from out of town.

Here’s a peek behind the scenes at the meeting:

YA author Jessica Lee Anderson and debut picture book author Chris Barton climb the stairs to the third-floor meeting room. Jessica’s next release will be Border Crossing, coming this fall from Milkweed.

Here, Austin SCBWI founder and VCFA MFA student Meredith Davis meets debut author Jacqueline Kelly, modeling her new release, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Henry Holt, 2009).

Author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell says “howdy” to RA Tim Crow. Don’t miss Mark’s blog, How to Be a Children’s Book Illustrator.

Authors Greg Leitich Smith and Jo Whittemore mug a “serious literary discussion” for the camera. This summer look for “The Wrath of Dawn,” a short story that Greg and I co-authored, which will appear in Geektastic: Stories of the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, 2009). And if you’re going to SCBWI Nationals this summer in Los Angeles, be sure to ask Jo to show you her new business card. It’s the best author business card ever!

Here’s Brian Anderson AKA Piñata Boy with Jessica. Seriously, check out this photo gallery of his piñatas.

And here’s VCFA MFA graduate and illustrator Gene Brenek with Random House author-illustrator Emma Virjan. Some of you may remember Gene as the genius behind the Tantalize and Eternal T-shirts, available from CafePress. And if you haven’t already, check out Emma’s video of Nacho!

Afterward, it’s lunch at Waterloo Ice House with Greg, Meredith, Brian, VCFA MFA student and YA author Varian Johnson (who was showing off an early copy of his upcoming novel Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2009)), Jo, Jessica, YA authors April Lurie and Margo Rabb, Tim, Emma, and Chris.

Cynsational Notes

Don’t miss BookKids Recommends: From the Crazy Folks at BookPeople.

Any errors in my reporting are entirely my fault.

Highlights of the day also included meeting Catherine Stier, the San Antonio based author of If I Ran for President, illustrated by Lynne Avril (2007); If I Were President, illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (2004); and Bugs in My Hair?! (2008), all published by Albert Whitman. Her 2009 book is Terrible Secrets of the Tell-All Club (Albert Whitman).