Children’s author, songwriter, and singer Barney Saltzberg is no stranger to the promotional road, but his newest tour has a novel twist. Workman and Abrams, the respective publishers of his latest picture books – Arlo Needs Glasses (May) and Andrew Drew and Drew (October) – have joined forces to send Saltzberg on a two-legged tour. The tour kicks off October 17 with an event at Cover to Cover Books in Columbus, Ohio, and wraps up November 18 with a story time presented by the Nolen Library at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (additional appearances in his L.A. hometown will follow the tour). In between, the author will touch down in other Ohio cities, as well as Minnesota, Florida, Texas, Philadelphia, and D.C., thanks to some smooth coordination and logistical juggling by publicity staffers at both houses.
This is only the second joint author tour with another publisher for Selina Meere, Workman’s executive director of publicity, who arranged Saltzberg’s itinerary on her company’s end with the help of publicity manager Anwesha Basu. (Previously, when she was at Clarkson Potter, she collaborated with Sterling on Bob and Melinda Blanchard’s 2005 tour for Cook What You Love and Live What You Love.)
Meere explains that Workman had originally envisioned staging a tour for Saltzberg alone, but switched tacks. “With the May pub date of Arlo Needs Glasses, we knew we’d miss sending Barney into schools, which would be an important part of his tour,” she says. “When we realized that the pub dates for Arlo Needs Glasses and Andrew Drew and Drew were so close together, we decided to work together with Abrams on a fall tour, to capitalize on school events and big book festivals. We started talking to accounts and festival coordinators at BEA to get interest going and confirm events early on.”
Coordinating Saltzberg’s tour for his company is Jason Wells, executive director of publicity and marketing for Abrams Books for Young Readers, who says that his only prior experience collaborating on tours was for Graeme Base, whose books Abrams has published in hardcover and Penguin in paperback. For logistics’ sake, he notes, the publishers divided Saltzberg’s tour into two legs, with each house focusing on booking events in markets they were most familiar with.
“We made an effort to fulfill as many bookstore requests for Barney as possible, and worked around such key events as Books by the Banks [the Cincinnati USA Book Festival], the Texas Book Festival, and a story time featuring Barney at the Metropolitan Museum, sponsored by its Nolen Library,” Wells says. Given the need to accommodate these dates, and due to the geographic span of the tour, he adds, “There were some logistical challenges getting Barney from place to place, but it helped that we were working together with Workman.”
Meere and Wells each point to the advantages of two companies sharing resources. “We both came up with ideas and connections the other might not necessarily have had,” says Meere, “which led us to a variety of venues for the tour, including a big Toddler Tuesday event at the Mall of America, which Jason lined up.” Wells emphasizes the economic pluses of banding together for a tour, noting, “I doubt either of us would individually have been able to put Barney out for the entire scope of the tour. With two sponsors, it makes things much more financially viable.”
Saltzberg Happily Climbs on Board
The guitar-toting author is clearly eager to embark on his marathon tour, on which he’ll tap into his dual childhood loves: music and drawing. “I have been playing guitar since I was eight, and probably started writing songs when I was nine or 10,” he says. “Now I’m 57, so that’s a very long time. And I began drawing at a young age. My mother was a painter and was a big believer in drawing, so she was always buying me sketchpads. I played in a band in high school and was a huge Beatle fan. I knew that John Lennon made drawings and always thought that maybe I could do both art and music – and as it turned out, I actually did.”
Talking about his new books, Saltzberg explains that Arlo, his beloved Goldendoodle, was the inspiration for Arlo Needs Glasses. Even though the pet does not have impaired vision, says the author, “he’s never been able to catch a ball.” This interactive picture book explains the process of eye exams and enables kids to try on various lift-out spectacles.
In Andrew Drew and Drew, the author explores the subject of creativity, as he did in Beautiful Oops! “This book is about a boy who loves to draw, and it’s my little homage to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon,” he says. “That book fascinated me from the moment I looked at it as a little kid and got lost in those white pages. I never thought I’d attempt to play with that concept, but I found that adding an interactive element with flaps gave extra movement to my story.”
Wells and Meere concur that Saltzberg’s ability to connect with kids through his art and music makes him an ideal author for touring. “You can tell he really enjoys meeting both kids and booksellers,” Wells says. “Through his presentations and his songs, he is very good about sharing his enthusiasm for encouraging kids’ creativity.” Meere adds, “Barney interacts with children on an extraordinary level, reaching them through his songs and art and subtly passing along the messages of his books. I’m not sure how he does it, but he really engages the room.”
On Saltzberg’s itinerary is a stop in Delaware, Ohio, where Tami Furlong, owner of Fundamentals Parent-Teacher Bookstore, has planned a busy agenda. The author will do an evening presentation at the Orange Branch of the Delaware Country District Library on October 17, and make two elementary school visits the following day. “I have been a fan of his for quite a while, and am thrilled about his visit,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of fun selling Arlo Needs Glasses and Andrew Drew and Drew – kids love both of them. We’ve had quite a few presales for our events, and we expect a standing-room-only crowd at the library. I look forward to seeing him connect with kids; that’s the best.”
Saltzberg agrees. Asked what he’s most looking forward to on his tour, he answers instantly: “The kids. Always the kids. I love seeing them, love sharing what I do with them. I was one of those kids who was not great at math and spelling and found school very hard. I worry about kids who can’t find themselves in the classroom. So here I am, this old guy who draws and sings songs, and maybe I can reach those kids who think that school isn’t working for them. Maybe I can show them there’s another way to do it. It sounds corny, but if I can reach just one child in that way, it would be amazing. And hopefully even more than one.”
Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg. Workman, $ 15.95 May ISBN 978-0-7611-6879-9
Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg. Abrams Appleseed, $15.95 Oct ISBN 978-1-4197-0-3775