Oakland-based book publicist Lorna Garano has opened an eponymous speakers bureau with business partner Peter Handel, who also has a long-time track record in public relations for Bay Area authors and publishers. The partners have joined together to match authors with institutions and corporations for speaking engagements all over the country.

Garano, who was publicity director at New Harbinger for five years before leaving to start her own firm, said she will specialize in independent publishers and look for niche markets that otherwise might be overlooked. She invited Handel to join her in the Lorna Garano Speakers Bureau last year, and the two have steadily built a database of both author and institutional clients since then.

‘We waited to announce the company until we had several ‘marquee’ author names in our roster,” said Handel. “These include PBS show host Carl Safina, Pepper Schwartz of University of Washington, presidential historian Rick Shenkman, and Lynn Ponton, an adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco who’s written two seminal books about teens.” Garano will place authors in front of large audiences at free events where speakers are paid by the organization. “Many authors are looking for non-traditional platforms through which they can both speak to live audiences and promote their books as well,” Handel said.

Since most large mainstream houses maintain in-house speakers bureaus, Garano and Handel feel there is a need to provide this service to indie publishers who might otherwise lack the time or resources to arrange for such speaking engagements. “Our job is to find the most complementary authors and institutions, make the connections, and get them together,” says Garano. In addition to authors, institutional clients working with Garano range from major colleges and universities to corporations such as Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Wells Fargo, and AARP.