Since the Hachette Book Group began experimenting with a Book Club Brunch with authors and consumers in 2011, the number of readers participating has quadrupled. This year's event, held Saturday at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, drew nearly 300 book club facilitators and members, up from 70 in its first year.
From the start, Hachette has relied on booksellers to help sell tickets and to sell books at the event, which it promotes as “a day for readers.” Participating bookstores have included Books & Greetings in Northvale, N.J.; RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Ct.; and McNally Jackson and Book Culture in New York.
RJ Julia has been particularly supportive of the event, even going so far as to bring in customers by the busload. “We’re always looking for something unique for our programming,” said RJ Julia events manager Liz Bartek. Three years ago the bookstore used a mini-van to bring 12 customers to the brunch. This year so many people signed up that the store booked a 55-passenger bus.
As a thank you, Hachette arranged for Jane Hamilton (The Excellent Lombards) to spend the night in Madison so that she could take the bus to the brunch. Bartek is already thinking about renting two buses for next year.
Karen Torres, v-p of field sales and account marketing for Hachette, says she may expand the event further, but said 300 "feels intimate.”
Hamilton appeared as part of a fiction panel with Robert Hicks (The Orphan Mother) and Eowyn Ivey (To the Bright Edge of the World). A nonfiction panel featured Julissa Arce (My (Underground) American Dream); Amy Dickinson (Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things), and D. Watkins (The Cook Up). Other speakers included Beth Macy (Truevine). Hachette distributed ARCs prior to the event for Min Jun Lee’s Pachinko and held a book club discussion as part of the brunch.
Torres and a team from Hachette will begin planning for the 2017 gathering in January. They will send out invitations in July. And if past years are any indication, the event will sell out by mid-August.