What’s in a Name?

Contrary to what many coordinators assume, a famous author doesn’t always ensure instant success for their Common Reads Program. Librarians who rely on circulation numbers are often missing out on up-and-coming titles; university administrators who require a book-to-film component are underestimating their readers; and most importantly, venues that insist on visiting authors with household name recognition are possibly paying far more than they need to in order to meet their program goals.

Faced with these challenges, we’ve seen a huge number of new clients this year, coming to Books In Common for help. When we first start to work with a venue (our primary client), we always ask the same question – what are your goals? Trying to fill all the seats in your auditorium? We regularly help venues secure authors that draw hundreds of participants, at a fraction of the cost they’d expect. Are you hoping to engage new or reluctant readers to your program? Most venues don’t have the budget for the level of celebrity that would wow the average patron, so picking a title that has themes/interests that appeal to a majority of folks is far more important than author name recognition.

Time and again, we’ve assisted venues to employ their resources in a way that makes sense, and thus sees incredible results. Take a Common Reads program with a $10,000 total budget: by allocating a portion for a speaker with a fantastic book, and then using a percentage of that savings for promotion of the themes therein, they end up with a crowd that rivals most “big name” marquee events. Remember, the best way to ensure a successful program with lots of attendance is to wisely market your annual event, building the brand with title selections that have excellent curb appeal, an author who is generous and captivating, and working toward a magical experience for attendees that will have them returning year after year, because they trust the selection judgment of the hosts (you!).

By trusting your readers, selecting issue-driven topics that are timely for the community, collaborating with complementary educational or nonprofit organizations, and thinking outside of the programming box, the programs we work with reap big rewards and provide a boost of new energy to their Common Reads Program. Lesser-known authors—emerging voices and rising stars—with titles that perfectly address these goals, are making for some of the most successful and engaging programs in the country. These authors are often far more generous with their time, eager to partner with coordinators and community members, and can be far more affordable than the $15,000 – $30,000 you might expect to pay for a celebrity author. Here are a few authors that you may not have heard of (yet!), with titles that have proven this theory through enriching and dynamic Common Reads programming:

  • Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise (fiction: cultural identity, police violence, returning veterans)
  • Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (nonfiction: inter-species communication, animal-human connection, science and nature)
  • Louise Hall, Speak (fiction: modes of communication, the power of memory, the increasing alienating effect of technology)
  • Regina Calcaterra, Etched in Sand (memoir: foster care awareness, coming of age, rising above your past)
  • Michael Pitre, Fives and Twenty-Fives (fiction: post-traumatic stress, brotherhood, life after military service)
  • Forrest Pritchard, Gaining Ground (memoir: farm to table, sustainable agriculture, protecting family legacy)
  • Ellen Urbani, Landfall (fiction; Hurricane Katrina, grief and loss, race relations)
  • Michael Hingson, Thunderdog (memoir: the anniversary of 9/11 terrorism, forgiveness after tragedy, parity for the blind).
  • Kevin Powell, The Education of Kevin Powell (memoir: social activism and justice, cultural identity, urban struggles)
  • Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Under the Mesquite (fiction: the struggle of undocumented immigrants, families dealing with illness, coming of age)
  • James Edward Mills, The Adventure Gap (nonfiction: outdoor adventure, minority issues, wilderness and nature)
  • Gary Ferguson, The Carry Home (memoir: the death of a spouse, environmental issues, the healing power of nature)

At Books In Common, we work with coordinators to take a complete, holistic view of their program, its goals, and how we can help to meet/exceed them. As a literary events consultancy (and not a speaker’s agency), we understand more than anyone the challenges most venues face in the marketplace. Because of our commitment to what we see as the important role of Common Reads Programs to bring people together around a book, our account managers are emotionally invested in the success of our clients’ programs, building friendships that continue year after year.

This entry was posted in A Deadly Wandering, A Sudden Light, All Campus Reads Programs, All the Light We Cannot See, all-campus reads, Anthony Doerr, author events, author interview, author speaker, book reviews, Books In Common, Brando Skyhorse, common-reads program, Community Reads Programs, Dave Eggers, David Sheff, Etched in Sand, Garth Stein, Issue #14, John Lewis, Karen Abbott, Liar Temptress Soldier Spy, Lisette's List, March Two, Matt Richtel, Newsletters, Regina Calcaterra, Ron Rash, Susan Vreeland, Sy Montgomery, Take This Man, The Soul of an Octopus, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT