Authors and Readers Coming Together


Alex Beguin, Cambridge Southeastern Rep

In the past month, I have been working more at home in preparation for next season’s catalog. This has enabled me to really notice even more what events are happening in this area, and the importance of the events to independent stores around the country.

One of the primary ways that bookstores bring authors and customers together is through events. On my many travels to stores, I have noticed even more how having great events can contribute to the excitement for customers coming into the store. Two stores in particular who do an excellent job of planning and running events are Politics and Prose (Washington, D.C.) and Quail Ridge Books & Music (Raleigh, NC).

Mike Giarratano, the Events Coordinator, has worked really hard to make Politics and Prose the premiere place to see events in the D.C. area/around the country. It is through countless hours going through catalogs, contacting publishers, and reviewing books that Giarratano has found a winning formula that has allowed events to thrive in this area and garner national coverage. Giarratano says “The consistency is important, that we schedule events each weeknight, and several on weekends, all in-store.” This frequency of events gives Politics and Prose the luxury of hosting authors and books on a variety of subjects from many publishers. For instance, one week in 2008 consisted of events by Christopher Plummer (Knopf), Julia Glass (Pantheon), Vernon Jordan (Public Affairs) and ended with a great event for Cambridge author Amy Singer’s book Charity in Islamic Societies . By covering a wide range of interests for students, young professionals, and locals, the store has been able to speak to the interests of the community and the city that thirst for a great literary experience. Politics and Prose in turn has become “a reliable venue for thought, discussion, and literary entertainment.”

Politics and Prose Events

Upcoming events include: Ruth Reichl (5/7), Michael Pollan (5/16), and Colm Toibin (5/18)

Quail Ridge Books and Music

A couple of years ago, I remember venturing to BEA and hearing multiple times about a great independent bookstore in Raleigh that hosted great events. It wasn’t until last year that I was able to visit the store as a sales representative. The store, Quail Ridge Books and Music,like Politics and Prose, is known for the consistency and value of events that they schedule. The store owner, Nancy Olson, balances events that range from national bestsellers to regional authors. Nancy mentions that in this recession, it has become increasingly important to find ways to draw people into the store. She goes on to say “attracting new customers is necessary, and hosting well known authors brings in those new customers.” The more popular events involve political writers and figures such as Pres. Jimmy Carter, VP Al Gore, Newt Gingrich, and Thomas Frank, but they also have successes with local authors Michael Malone, Sarah Susanka, and of course David Sedaris.The store also works with community organizations in celebrating different events such as Earth Day and music programs with NC Symphony and the radio station WCPE. This partnership allows for a greater sense of community and supporting locally.

Sometimes it also helps to be quick on your toes. As the store found out, with just two weeks notice, Quail Ridge drew a crowd of 200 people for Paul Krugman and sold over 200 books.Olson adds “This was before he won the Nobel Prize.”

Quail Ridge Events

Upcoming events include: Sarah Susanka (5/15), Elizabeth Edwards (5/16), David Sedaris (6/24),

The reputation for running great events is something publishers remember and helps them decide which stores to contact for big, small, and sometimes last-minute events. Politics and Prose and Quail Ridge have maintained this reputation for years with great organization, community involvement, and great authors visiting their stores. These great events have increased the overall literary experience and enjoyment for both new and old customers. So for those traveling to Washington, D.C. or Raleigh, NC, make sure to visit Politics and Prose and Quail Ridge. Not only will you be able to browse a great selection of books, but more than likely there will be a fantastic event occurring that day or evening.

Upcoming Cambridge Events:

David Calleo’s Follies of Power
at The CATO Institute
, DC
May 19, 2009

Charles Bamforth’s Grape vs. Grain
Books on Wine Festival
The St. Helena Public Library
St. Helena, CA May 20, 2009 (Wed.) 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

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