Joining Forces: Opportunities to Come Together

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BIC Director, Christie Hinrichs

For many of our friends in library and university communities, 2015 will see some of the most significant budget shortfalls in recent memory.  As program resources increasingly diminish, even successful and longstanding Common Reads initiatives are left hanging in the balance. Worse still, these challenges come at a time when building common ground among students, citizens and diverse cultures is more important than ever. But it’s not all doom and gloom – sometimes the very challenges that threaten to divide us become opportunities to bring us together.  And that’s where Books In Common can help!

As a non-profit Literary Events Consultancy, our #1 goal is to ensure that Common Reads coordinators—be they First Year Experience administrators, One Book One Community planners, teachers or librarians—have exactly what they need for the success of their programs. Sure, we can always help get the very best authors for your literary events, usually at a significant discount off standard honoraria. But more importantly, we’ll collaborate with you in the earliest stages of planning, offering a wealth of ideas and solutions gleaned from the thousands of event planners we’ve helped. For so many of the venues we now work with, this collaboration has facilitated outstanding programs that continue year after year.

So, what do you do when the forces that be slash funding and pull back support? Our advice is to band together! We’ve worked to create connections among university departments, community organizations, and local businesses in the effort to combine resources and programming ideas. Below you’ll find a few tips we’ve shared with our venues, which often have saved a program from being discontinued—and sometimes have helped the coordinators create even stronger and more impactful events!

  • Give yourself plenty of time. For venues that struggle with underwriting, it’s even more critical to have as much lead-time as possible.  With nine-12 months’ notice, Books In Common can: help seek out secondary venues in your region (often making the author far more affordable); offer advice on fundraising efforts such as VIP receptions (which can raise thousands of dollars to offset program costs);  and discover opportunities you may have overlooked right in your own backyard. Working nearly a year in advance with a community college in Florida, we were able to increase the budget from $0 to $10,000 in only six months, allowing them to bring Garth Stein, author of Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light, to the community for a series of events that drew thousands of participants.
  • Use the book as a way to open closed doors. Does your title selection have a specific theme that might appeal to local sponsors? To our thousands of university venues, we suggest reaching out to the far corners of campus, hunting down partners that can rally around a shared theme. For example, one of our First Year Experience venues selected Reyna Grande’s moving memoir, The Distance Between Us; we not only helped bring the university Women’s Studies Department and Campus Diversity Office on board, but also found a nearby Latino newspaper that was happy to offer support in return for a casual meet-and-greet for their subscribers. Another venue selected Kelsey Timmerman’s Where Are You Wearing? for their All Campus Reads program.  We reached out to the College of Business, which was thrilled with Kelsey’s message of what it means to be an engaged global consumer, and the event was a huge success across campus.
  • Don’t underestimate the enthusiasm of your readers. A library in Minnesota selected the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline for its annual program, but had little hope of being able to offer a community author event. In close collaboration with Books In Common, the library coordinated a raffle for one lucky patron to have “tea with the author,” and managed to raise enough money to host her for the culmination of its program, held in a charming historical train depot.

No matter what challenges you face, Books In Common is here to help. On a daily basis, our account managers across the country are working with event planners to build strong partnerships, create solutions and find a way to say “Yes!” instead of hearing nothing but “No.”  If you can relate, give us a call today.  Books In Common is the most experienced and knowledgeable partner you’ll find, and we’re ready to join forces!

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  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT