Book clubs tend to spark relationships with their book picks that can be as deep, dear and even tumultuous as a romance, so it's fitting that the folks at ReadingGroupGuides.com once again used a speed-dating style setting to let publishers make pitches to BEA attendees.
|Speed-dating book pitchers.
Last year 12 publishers participated; this year it was 21, said Carol Fitzgerald, president of the Book Report Network, who hosted the event. Liz Kossnar from Teenreads.com joined the presenters to pitch seven YA titles. The 22 pitchers had nine minutes to make the case for their books before Fitzgerald struck a gong signaling it was time to move to the next table for the next speed date. ReadingGroupGuides.com hosted the same event on Friday and Saturday to give attendees access to as many titles as possible in the two 80-minute sessions.
"The audience the first day was booksellers, librarians, bloggers and book group leaders," explained Fitzgerald. "The second day it was some of those attendees, who wanted to repeat the event to see more publishers, plus Power Readers. We had 158 attendees on Friday and about 90 on Saturday."
While some chose to present books that had been featured on buzz panels and roundups, many publishers used the opportunity to bring more offbeat titles, perhaps with an interesting history, that make for good book club reads.
Among the presenters was Lisa Senz, associate publisher at St. Martin's Press, whose subject was The Wedding Gift (Sept.), about a plantation master who gives his daughter a slave, who's also his illegitimate daughter. Author Marlen Suyapa Bodden self-published the novel and sold more than 150,000 copies before St. Martin's picked it up. The Tom Wolfe blurb reads: "If I were you, I wouldn't make any plans for the rest of the day. You have in your hands a story of the tangled motives and self-destructive passions when whites and blacks became this close during the time of slavery--all told at a pell mell pace."
In paperback, Senz presented Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson (Oct.), which, as a self-published book, sold more than 80,000 copies. The editor, Senz explained, does not usually handle fiction but heard about the book from a cousin who was reading the story, which opens at the Chicago opera, with a gunman confronting a wealthy philanthropist named Rosenzweig, accusing him of being a Nazi SS officer who betrayed the gunman's foster family during the war.
On the S&S list, consumer marketing manager Bryony Weiss presented two historical novels: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (Sept.), about a complicated triangle involving Edgar Allan Poe, his wife and Frances Osgood, a struggling author (with two children and a philandering husband) who is unimpressed with The Raven yet drawn to the author when they meet among the New York literati in 1845; and Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (Aug.), about Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and last wife, which will appeal to Hilary Mantel fans. Weiss also presented "a little gem of a novel": Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (Aug.), about a young Korean man who defects from his country at the end of the war and becomes an apprentice to a Japanese tailor in Brazil.
Other Press, Sourcebooks, Algonquin, Europa and Soho were among the independent presses who participated in the speed dating event, along with representatives from imprints of the big five houses.
For those unable to attend, or unable to hear all they wanted to hear before Fitzgerald struck the gong, the complete list of suggested book club titles can be found here. --Bridget Kinsella