Last week I had the opportunity to attend the American Booksellers Winter Institute at one of my favorite hotels in the world, The Grove Park Inn, in Asheville, NC. This was a gathering of hundreds of independent booksellers, joined by publisher representatives, authors, and others from the book trade. Officially I was there to attend the author’s reception—signing copies of my books for booksellers—but I also spent two days attending educational sessions, pitch lunches, and keynote speeches. It was a great educational experience, and I’ll probably write several blogs about it.
On my first day I had lunch at what is called the “Rep Picks Lunch.” I had no idea what this meant when a bookseller friend of mine invited me to attend, but I’m so glad I went. At each table sat six to eight booksellers. Representatives from publishing companies rotated around from table to table. Each rep had about ten minutes at a table to pitch upcoming titles to the booksellers. In the course of the session, each bookseller probably heard about fifty or sixty titles.
What I found interesting about all this was considering it from the author’s point of view. Enthusiasm from booksellers is the number one way books get sold—especially books that are not written by one of the dozen or so mega-franchises (like Stephen King or James Patterson). But for a bookseller to be interested in my book first a publisher has to decide to publish it, next the sales rep has to decide it will be one of the books she pitches, then the sixty-second pitch has to stand out from the other sixty books the bookseller hears about in that session (and there are multiple sessions).
It gave me a great appreciation for the Penguin sales team, and also an understanding that I need to arm them with ways to describe my books in sixty seconds (or less.) No one knows the book better than the author, so who better than to write the “elevator pitch.” One of my favorite things about being an author is the chance to talk to book clubs, either in person or on the phone. It’s great to be able to discuss my novels in some depth. But the reality is, unless I can describe them in a sentence or two, those book clubs might never discover them.
All this made me feel pretty good about my next book, dropping on October 20. It’s called The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge. After listening to all those sales pitches, I realized that my title is the best pitch the book can have.