Punny Contest for Booksellers
John High -- 1/8/01
Hyperion has booksellers undertaking the titling of a new "Hearse" mystery

Alsoin this Article:

Author Tim Cockey has experienced quite a bit of success with hearses lately, and a number of booksellers have signed on for the ride.

In conjunction with Book Sense, Hyperion announced a bookseller contest to name Cockey's third novel, scheduled for publication in 2002. The winning title will grace the sequel to Cockey's popular The Hearse You Came In On, and his forthcoming Hearse of a Different Color, due out from Hyperion in February.

Booksellers learned of the contest along with their advance reading copies for Hearse of a Different Color in October. The store with the winning entry will get an in-store event with
Tim Cockey is
enjoying the contest.
Cockey. All participants will receive signed first editions.
"We just love Tim and his books. We're really excited about the contest," Kathie Long, Hyperion's director of publicity told PW. "Tim's fun, witty, and he can tell a serious story with humor and style."

According to Hyperion's director of marketing, Jane Comins, independent booksellers were a big part of Cockey's initial success with his civilian sleuth, Baltimore undertaker Hitchcock Sewell. The book sold extremely well, thanks to word-of mouth. Bob Miller, Hyperion's managing director, noted readers' enthusiasm for the punny titles and suggested the contest after Texas rep Linda Jamison got the wheels turning.

"Linda told us that her booksellers had so much fun selling Tim's book that they were coming up with their own punny titles," said Comins. "A formal contest was a natural. We appreciate input from our reps and booksellers and, whenever possible, we incorporate those ideas into marketing strategies."

"My favorite so far is A Hearse Is a Hearse, of Corpse, of Corpse," Comins told PW. "But we have over 40 title suggestions to date, and Tim hasn't picked a winner yet."

When reached by the phone, Cockey confessed he had a cold. "I've gone hearse," he deadpanned. "It's this pun thing, I guess. You can at least say you tried to get hold of the author but he was too hearse to talk."
Emperor's New Look
When 24-year-old Jonathon Gavaldon left drama school to work in a bookstore, he brought along his love for the stage and some actor friends. Under his influence as lead bookseller, the Barnes & Noble of Montclair, in suburban Los Angeles, has become known for its costumed events and the flair of its enthusiastic booksellers.
A few weeks ago, the store hosted a book party/benefit for the new paperback edition of The Emperor's New Clothes: An All-Star Illustrated Retelling of the Classic Fairy Tale (Harvest Books). The book was published as a fund-raising project for the Starbright Foundation, which develops projects that help seriously ill children deal with the emotional challenges they face. The book features retellings by numerous celebrities, including Madonna, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and John Lithgow, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, Steven Kellogg and others.
The party, attended by more than 30 children and parents, featured a dramatic reading by five employees and friends, in full costume. The weaver, the jester, the queen and the emperor himself were represented. Since the emperor's original suit seemed a bit racy for the conservative clientele of Montclair, the outfit was embellished: a sign that read "Censored" covered the actor's front.
As one of the store's featured titles this past holiday season, The Emperor's New Clothes was displayed in various sections around the store, and the book's accompanying CD was played throughout the day. Posters and framed blowups of the book's characters were also on display. The children's house, a fixture at most Barnes & Noble stores, was refashioned into a castle and was decorated with a four-foot-wide crown, as well as gold balls, flags and turrets. Crowns were a major theme of the promotion--Gavaldon and other store employees made and wore jeweled crowns during the last few weeks. Efforts seem to be paying off, with in-store sales of the book expected to top the 1,000 mark for the season--especially impressive for a store of just 10,000 sq. ft. The smaller-than-usual B&N store, which opened in 1993, preceded the superstore concept.
This was not the first dress-up event at the store. Last summer, costumed characters handing out treats greeted Harry Potter fans at the midnight release.
"Whatever I can do to bring books to life for children and others is a pleasure," explained Galvadon. "Many children are drawn into reading when they see stories come to life. A connection is made between books and play. Plus, it's all a lot of fun."
--Barbara R ther

Speaking of hearses, the publisher has already rented a pink-and-maroon hearse for the March book party at The Horse You Came In On Saloon, in Baltimore.

"It's where Tim's plots are set," Long said. "For the untitled third book, we'd like to see Tim tour parts of the country in the hearse."

The First Hearse
Cockey told PW that, after writing his first book, he and a friend were sitting around "punning" for a title when he came upon The Hearse You Came In On. He then remembered the Baltimore saloon, but it was "a curious coincidence." In fact, the plots for the Cockey's hearse series take place in Baltimore's Fells Point district, at the fictional Screaming Oyster Salon--SOS--only half a mile from the real saloon.

The concept of the hearse-driven publicity was born at the Bouchercon mystery conference in 1999. Hyperion hired a hearse and parked it in front of the hall to publicize Cockey's first book.

"I plan to drive a hearse up the East Coast for the untitled book, and do an extensive series of signings," said Cockey. "I'll have a crate of books in back. You just know people are going to wonder what's going on with this guy in a hearse. So I'll sell them a book."

How d s Cockey feel about having a bookseller determine the title of his new book?

"It's a little strange, but great," he admitted. "I know we'll get a winner. The titles are so important. I've had a lot of people tell me they bought my book because of the title. I want a really fun one. Hyperion's been terrific to work with, and I'm thrilled about the whole thing."

The paperback of The Hearse You Came In On will be released along with the Hearse of a Different Color in February. Reviewers have compared Cockey's writing to authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich and Elmore Leonard, including it in the screwball mystery pantheon.

There's Still Time
Since Cockey hasn't yet picked the winning title, there is still time for booksellers to send their suggestions to Comins at: Booksellers can also find out more at Cockey's Web site:

"We're going to try to wrap it around the new year," Cockey told PW, "I'm proofing the manuscript now, and Hyperion's about ready to start the art work. I can't wait to see more titles."

Booksellers had better be clever. A few of the titles already in: All the Pretty Hearses; Dark Hearse; You're Beating a Dead Hearse; A Hearse of No Name; The Trojan Hearse; My Kingdom for a Hearse!; Hearse to You, Mrs. Robinson; Get Off Your High Hearse; If Wishes Were Hearses; Who's on Hearse?; From Bad to Hearse; Hold Your Hearses; Don't Look a Gift Hearse in the Mouth; You Can Lead a Hearse to Water; The Hearse That Jack Built; and Little Hearse on the Prairie.

Picture-Perfect SuccessWhen Connoisseur magazine sent Carl Richter to Chapel Hill, N.C., to photograph Algonquin cofounder Louis Rubin Jr. for a story on that house, the photographer, who lives in Helsinki, had no inkling that, several years later, a book would result from the assignment.

Rubin, who was also a founding member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, liked the photographer's work so much that Richter was further commissioned to photograph the other 27 founding members for the Fellowship's archives at the University of Tennessee/Chattanooga's Lupton Library.

Twelve years later, Richter is again crisscrossing the South on a 10-city tour for Hill Street Press's newly released A Portrait of Southern Writers, his collection of almost 100 photographs of the region's writers, a project that evolved from Rubin's commission.

The tour sprang from a photo display at last fall's SEBA gathering in Atlanta. "Although prints of Carl's photographs are in museums and are priced in the $1,500 range," Hill Street
In-store photo
prints boosted sales.
president/publisher Tom Payton told PW, "he generously gave us seven images to use in our promotion. So due to bookseller response at SEBA, we decided to develop a tour in which stores could use them for displays and raffles." Veteran bookseller Mary Gay Shipley at Arkansas's That Bookstore in Blytheville thinks this raffle concept "may well be unprecedented. At least I don't recall a tour offering this kind of combination."
"We tried to pair photographs with stores whose customers would find them attractive for their area," Payton said. Shipley asked for Pat Conroy, "since he is so popular here"; John Evans's Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Miss., reserved the half-tone image of local resident Eudora Welty; and New Orleans's Beaucoup Books received an image of Donna Tartt. Richter's photograph of Jimmy Carter was featured at the tour's opening event at Chapter 11's flagship Ansley Mall store in Atlanta.

Along with the photographs, Hill Street provided a poster for each store's use. Beaucoup Books owner Mary Price Dunbar developed A Portrait window display around the poster, keeping the Tartt print displayed behind the counter prior to a raffle held during Richter's signing last month. Joseph-Beth's store in Lexington, Ky., used the poster in an display promoting coming events and held a drawing for the Alice Walker portrait during the signing.

The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, S.C., extended its raffle for the photo of South Carolinian Josephine Humphreys beyond the date of Richter's appearance to encourage further sales. "This turned out to be a good Christmas book for us," owner Andy Graves told PW. "We wanted to make every customer eligible to win the photograph, even if they were unable to be here for the signing." And Chapter 11's Ansley Mall locale is extending its raffle even further, to January 24, when Jimmy Carter will be there to sign An Hour Before Daylight (Simon & Schuster). Chapter 11's director of communications, Brian Lapidus, noted that the November 30 signing with Richter was a hit, increasing the book's profile in the minds of holiday giftgivers.

"We sold 45 copies, which to us is a very good response for a Thursday-night event," Lapidus said. "What was most encouraging, though, was how people who were not in the store to meet Richter nevertheless told us they thought the book would make a great holiday gift." That, of course, is music to the ears of three-year-old Hill Street Press, which also placed what Payton terms "our most ambitious project yet" in SEBA's holiday catalogue.

Richter's book ended up at Hill Street purely by chance. Last summer, while she was in Finland attending a Nordic Association of American Studies conference, Hill Street editor-in-chief Judy Long was introduced to Richter on a boat trip sponsored by the Fulbright Finnish Committee, of which the photographer is a member. Although she knew of his Southern writer photographs from their reproduction in the Oxford American and elsewhere, Long has been unaware that the collection was available following a breakdown in plans by a Southern university press to publish it. So she brought her "prize"--with a foreword by Robert Coles and afterword by Ann Beattie--back to her colleagues in Athens, Ga., who got it published (working with Book Print in Barcelona, Spain) in time for Southern booksellers to happily ring up holiday sales.
--Bob Summer