Lights, Camera, Action at Powell's Books
Powell's Books, whose podcasts and blogs, among other book and author promotions, have set a high standard, is taking a major, cinematic step forward: using the name Out of the Book, the Portland, Ore., bookseller will soon begin making short movies of up to 23 minutes "about a frontlist title and giving a broad sense of the author who wrote it," Dave Weich, director of marketing and development at Powells.com, told Shelf Awareness.
The films will be "promotional vehicles, entertaining documentaries, not commercials," Weich continued, and will consist of interviews with the author; footage from his or her home town and settings in the book; commentary from critics, peers and fans; and more. The films will be distributed free to other booksellers around the country to be used to build events. The first movie, whose subject Weich can't yet divulge because of ongoing negotiations, will make its debut at the New Yorker's BEA party. He assured us that the author will be well known. [Full disclosure: there goes any hope I have of being part of it.]
Two weeks later, for five days, the inaugural Out of the Book film will be the centerpiece of events at bookstores, who as of yesterday numbered nearly 40. (The booksellers will have a certain amount of territorial exclusivity, but Powell's wants to be as inclusive as possible, Weich said.) Powell's will supply to the participating bookstores the film, signed bookplates, display materials, e-mail templates and graphics, a variety of marketing and event ideas and marketing and advertising support such as an ad about summer events in the New Yorker. Weich imagines that stores will tailor events to their markets and do something like what Powell's plans to do: at an event at the Bagdad Theater, a brewpub/movie theater across from its main store, the bookseller will, in addition to showing the movie, feature an actor reading a section from the work, several experts talking about the work and answering questions and a musical performance. The price of admission will be a copy of the book or a gift card of the same value. As for the overall finances, Weich said, "We're still working on the business model." [Full disclosure: I have no idea if this will work, but at least it's interesting!]
Although it has trouble quantifying the effect, Powell's knows that its author promotions boost sales nationally, Weich said; the filmmaking effort as a "proactive way" of boosting the reach of this effort. The company hasn't yet decided how many films to make--as few as one a quarter to as many as one or two a month.
"The idea is to make these as entertaining as possible," Weich said. "Frankly many readings are dull: a person stands behind a podium, reads, answers a few questions and the customer gets 30 seconds of face time during the signing." Powell's is hiring accomplished directors. ("It's not as if someone in the shipping department will do it.")
"It's a pretty big leap, but it's not a leap out of nowhere," Weich continued. "It's an extension of what we're doing. We're already delivering authors to readers in various forms, and this is a more far-reaching way to do that and create real excitement in the independent community by creating unique events."--John Mutter
What do you think?