Borrowing the clever format used by Laura Purdie Salas and Fiona Bayrock over at Bubble Stampede!, Susan Goodman and I have decided to chat about Kids Heart Authors, a New England-wide book signing event on February 14, 2009. We will both be at the The Blue Bunny in Deadham, Massachusetts.
Masterminded by fabulous multicultural author Mitali Perkins with a whole lot of help from independent publicist Deborah Sloan, Kids Heart Authors is a celebration of children's books, independent booksellers, authors and, of course, our young readers.
Melissa: I think Valentine's Day is a great time to have a book signing, especially since it falls on a weekend this year. I love what I do. Writing books for kids is the best job I can imagine. And I've met plenty of kids who say they love my books.
But I also love the independent booksellers in the Boston area. My trade books are published by small publishers, so the large chains don't always give them a chance. But Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA, The Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, MA, and The Concord Bookshop in Concord, MA, have all been very supportive. They know the books in their stores, and they take the time to know their customers. That allows them to be matchmakers, pointing each child toward the perfect book.
Susan: Thanks for thinking up this great idea Melissa. I second everything you've said so far. All writers should support the independents in return--as authors and as customers. I think nonfiction writers for kids also owe a special debt to the independents, who proportionally stock more nonfiction than the chains--and sometimes even in terms of just plain numbers!
I hope that the bookstores benefit by it. I know we authors do. And kids do too, especially the ones who like to gobble up information as much as stories. How many parents and teachers have heard, "I don't like to read," from a child, only to later learn that what he or she really means is, "I want to read about something," i.e., a nonfiction subject of interest.
Melissa: You're right, Susan. In fact, studies have shown that having a rich supply nonfiction available for students in grades 3 to 5 significantly increases the likelihood that children will become life-long readers. Of course, many students prefer fiction, and some like both. That's why I'm so glad that this Kids Heart Author event includes a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction titles. There will be 115 authors and illustrators signing books at 40 independent booksellers across New England.
Another great thing about an event like this is that authors and illustrators get to meet each other and see old friends. Most of us spend our days working alone in our home offices.
Susan: Absolutely--it's nice to get out of the house and have a reason to also get out of sweat pants or pjs. Not to underestimate the effort it took to come up with promotional materials and team up so many bookstores and authors but, thanks to the Internet, this event came together so quickly. And, it got a fair amount of attention as it was picked up by blogs and newsletters.
It raises the question: What else can we authors and independent booksellers do to help ourselves? What kind of events and/or attractions can we come up with besides traditional signings that will attract an audience of readers? Anybody out there have any ideas?