Book launches are phenomenon of the past, right?
It used to be that authors could antipate a spate of attention from their publishing houses when their books came out. Publicists had made sure that galleys reached the most influential readers, and author tours were planned. There were radio and print interviews scheduled, carefully, around an excerpt in a major magazine. And then there was the author lunch, an elegant affair in which the writer clinked glasses with critics and editors.
In my experience, dedicated indie bookstores would put on great affairs, too. But all that, with 2008-and-all-that, has become a sentimental memory.
However, according to Sheelah Kolhatkar on Bloomberg Businessweek, Amazon is reviving history.
On May 30 the publishers’ newest and scariest competitor, Amazon, hosted its very first author lunch, for Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti, a buzzy young blogger who edits the website Feministing.com.
The room was filled with lady writers and moms who listened with rapt attention as Valenti read from her book, the latest entrant in the burgeoning motherhood-as-terrorism genre. There were only three men present, and one of them was Larry Kirshbaum, the head of Amazon’s publishing unit. Why Have Kids? will be the second title being released by Amazon Publishing/New Harvest.
Amazon is intent on becoming a major force in book publishing, as a recent string of high-profile hires indicates, and the luncheon seemed designed to send a strong message. Radicchio salad, black bass, and some kind of salty chocolate-caramel devastation were served at Eleven Madison Park, a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. Wines were poured liberally. Farrar, Straus & Giroux could hardly have done better during Tom Wolfe’s heyday. As if that wasn’t enough, each attendee was sent home with a Kindle Fire, with Valenti’s book preloaded onto it
The event left the impression that the “legacy” publishers, as the Amazon marketing folks kept referring to them, should be very afraid.
Authors would be paying attention, too.