Five garden authors--including Amy Stewart, Wicked Plants (Algonquin); Debra Prinzing, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways (Clarkson Potter); and Scott Calhoun, Designer Plant Combinations (Storey)--joined forces and talents to create a Web site to be a one-stop-shop resource for the kinds of venues that book garden/nature speakers.

“We designed to make it easier for garden, nature, and design authors to reach audiences at garden clubs, botanical gardens, flower shows and other 'green' venues,” explained Stewart. “We're not a lecture agency—we don't negotiate fees or charge a commission. Instead, we charge a small fee—only $5/month—for speakers to be listed on the site, and we use those funds to host the site and do outreach and publicity for all of us.” A boxed “Spotlight Feature Listing” on the site runs $35. The five founding authors volunteer their time.

Andrea Wulf, author of The Brother Gardener, stumbled upon GGS when she was planning garden-specific speaking events during her tour for her new book, The Founding Gardeners Knopf), and she signed up before it launched. “It’s a little like online dating, I suppose,” Wulf said. She particularly likes the “Coming to a City Near You” feature.

It’s a big audience. Stewart shared the statistics: “Over 325,000 Americans belong to garden clubs or volunteer as Master Gardeners; 70 million visitors stream through botanical gardens; hundreds of thousands attend garden and flower shows every year; there are 3,000 large indie garden centers, many of which hold events every weekend.” And that is not counting the thousands of plant societies devoted to specific plants. “These are educated, engaged readers who show up to meetings & events and want to hear from authors,” Stewart added

But, as Prinzing noted, connecting with these organizations can be daunting because many are run by volunteers, which means high turnover, and no in-house book publicist could spend the time tracking them all down. Like Wulf and other authors in the field, Prinzing books a lot of her garden events by organizations looking for speakers finding her Web site. “Bottom line: when I connect with audiences, they want to buy my books,” she said. “However, I know there are so many potential audiences that I am not able to connect with on my own. I probably give 20 lectures a year, coast to coast, and my participation on the GGS site will help groups unfamiliar with me and my topics discover me more easily.”

Stewart said Great Garden Speakers is not just an example of authors doing things for themselves, but also for their publishers, by creating one source that can help all garden experts—not just authors—connect with clubs and venues interested in hearing them speak. “From the perspective of an author out on tour, hoping to get 30 people to come to an event, the numbers are truly staggering. A normal audience at a garden club is more like 50-100, and in many larger cities, turnout is often 200,” said Stewart. The founding authors hope publishers will want to support their efforts in Great Garden Speakers. “Sponsorships are only $150/month, for which you get a banner ad and our never-ending gratitude,” said Stewart. Publishers are welcome to pay for their author's listings as well: $95 buys a one-year listing and a one-month Featured Listing, with prominent placement on the site. In one month’s time, more than 50 authors have signed up to