They call themselves the Class of 2k7. They're a group of first-time children's book authors 40 strong from 20 states, who have banded together to attract attention to themselves collectively and individually. Founded by author Greg Fishbone, the group has a Web site (www.classof2k7.com.), a blog, plans to target booksellers and librarians with brochures and hopes of group book tours.
Fishbone, a lawyer, will have his middle-grade novel, The Penguins of Doom, published next July by Blooming Tree Press in Austin, Tex. He said he created the group to "do things that we wouldn't be able to do as individuals," such as create awareness for a large number of debut books while also promoting a single title. He hopes booksellers and librarians will see the site as "one-stop shopping for those interested in discovering new books and fresh voices." Members have books due out from a wide range of publishers, including Bloomsbury, FSG, Delacorte, Lee & Low, Harcourt, Candlewick, Kensington, Simon Pulse, Roaring Brook, Holt and Little, Brown.
Fishbone, though the originating spirit, is not a one-man band. When he first looked into how much time and effort it would take to publicize his book, he realized he would need help. "President" Fishbone found his "classmates" by putting a call out for other 2007 debut authors in regional newsletters of the 20,000-member Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Carrie Jones (Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, Llewellyn /Flux, May), who is "secretary" of the class, said she was one of the first members to join Fishbone. "It's a stunning, diverse group and I'm lucky to not have to do all this marketing on my own," she said. She became a member for two reasons: "First, I live in Maine and while we have some bookstores, we don't have a lot of population. We don't have a lot of people for YA groups. I felt somewhat isolated and small because I'm so new at all this. Secondly, I thought the group was a great idea because it uses a bunch of people's talents and puts them together in a community with all the same aim. Also, I liked the idea that there is something altruistic about it, helping other people while you're helping yourself. It seems like a lovely approach."
The Web site, which Fishbone created, has a separate page for each of the partici- pating authors. Each author has a discussion forum, and a blog area allows readers to ask questions of the group as a whole.
Members will share the cost of developing and distributing brochures with information about each of the authors and their books. Fishbone said the brochures will be sent to "every bookseller and librarian who wants one—and possibly some who don't."
Another way the members are working to promote themselves is through author appearances. Fishbone said the class has divided the country into 10 regions and if things go according to plan, "there will be 10 regional Class of 2k7 tours going at once, all year long." Jones likes the idea of touring with other authors, saying, "you stand less of a risk of going to an event and having it being just your Mom and Dad in the audience."
Fishbone said the group doesn't receive support from publishers, but he's not even sure he wants any. "We want to distinguish ourselves somewhat from the corporate-driven marketing campaigns that booksellers and librarians get bombarded with," he says. "We all love our publishers, but we want to define our group as author-centric as much as possible."
Barbara Fisch, associate director of publicity at Harcourt Children's Books, thinks the group and Web site are innovative. "By combining their talent and energy, these authors have generated buzz, the all-important word in publicity," she said. "And that buzz extends beyond just one book, but to what is new and exciting in middle grade and YA literature."
Members of the group have books scheduled from January through December; after that, Fishbone said, a new group of authors may continue the idea. "I've been in talks with [SCBWI founders] Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser about making the Web site a template for future classes," he said. "We're happy to pass on whatever we're learning to the next group of writers."