Making the Best of a Lost Event

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 21st, 2013

Loren Long PosterMother Nature had herself a nice little laugh at our expense this week, sending a snowstorm to Vermont that landed on exactly the wrong day. We had been all set to welcome author/illustrator Loren Long to the Flying Pig and shepherd him to three very excited schools, but the meteorologists predicted 10″-14″ of snow overnight, and it seemed absurd to ask a man to fly all the way to Vermont from Ohio if the schools were going to be closed for a snow day when he visited and he might get stuck here, unable to make his next tour stop. Reluctantly, Long’s publicist (the wonderful Marisa Russell – more on her in a moment) and we decided we’d better cancel the event.

This was a difficult decision for so many reasons! We love Loren’s books; his art is incredibly appealing to both children and adults, and we have oodles of tractor (not to mention puppy) fans who were eager to meet the man behind Otis and hear him read his newest book, Otis and the Puppy. (Also, if you missed Long’s recent Nightsong from Simon & Schuster, it’s another must-read!) By all accounts, Loren Long is a lovely human being in addition to being a bestselling author and artist, and we would have loved the chance to chat in person. We were also so sorry to miss this opportunity because Marisa is one of the best publicists we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. She sent great promo materials (see the poster, top right) and a helpful letter detailing school event plans, needs, and expectations. She kept in touch regularly in the weeks leading up to the visit, and even called a week to ten days before the event to make sure we had received our event order and checking to make sure we didn’t need to adjust any quantities last minute. Publicists, this is a terrific thing to do! Double-checking event quantities close to the event but with enough time to add books without rush shipping needed, to catch any missed items or replenish books that have sold unexpectedly well leading up to the event, is extremely helpful for your bookstore accounts.

Loren Long went above and beyond, as well, sending brief introductory DVDs ahead to each school he was planning to visit. The DVDs were personalized with the school names, and all three schools reported that the kids “went crazy” when they heard their school’s name. You can imagine the excitement of hearing a famous author mention your very own school in a video; they felt he had made it just for them. What a brilliant and generous way to greet the children ahead of time, to get them invested in the visit, and to perhaps cover some introductory ground that is then not necessary to repeat during the event. Such a thoughtful idea!

Publisher and author attention to detail didn’t stop when the event was canceled, either. Brainstorming the best way to ease the kids’ disappointment, Philomel and Long offered to set up Skype visits with each school, and to send personalized bookplates for the 75 or so families who had bought books for autographing. The schools were happy, the parents were happy, and we felt well cared for as a business making a difficult call.

We were also fortunate that the supermarket folks who make the amazing sheet cakes for our big events, the kind that feed multitudes and feature the author’s newest book cover, were able to call off the decorators in time. Otherwise, that would have been a LOT of vanilla and chocolate Otis and the Puppy in our freezers.

We will, I hope, host Loren Long for an event in the future. Given Vermont weather, we’re putting in our bid for a May, June, September, or October release date.

4 thoughts on “Making the Best of a Lost Event

  1. Beth DiIorio

    Hi Elizabeth,
    This is so you…optimistic, flexible, and professional! Hope all is going well for Flying Pig. Fritz, my oldest son, is a freshman in high school now…how does time go by so quickly? I’m living in Massachusetts and am just about to change careers. After 26 years of teaching, I’ve decided to resign and pursue a career working with books (you know…my lifelong passion!). I’d love to pick your brain if you have a few minutes via email. Contact me when you have time at beth.diiorio@yahoo.com.
    Many thanks~
    Warmly,
    Beth DiIorio :-)

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle Post author

      Yes, indeed, Carol. The reports had us at 10″ or 11″ — though it didn’t seem like that much. Still, all of the schools were closed and people were staying indoors (or skiing), so it was a good call.

  2. Sarah J

    What an excellent example of lemons, life and lemonade! We had Adam Gidwitz visit our school in February, the day before that huge snowstorm hit New York. We were sweating it out wondering if it would reach Pennsylvania, to cancel the visit or not…fortunately it all worked and was a fantastic (and very first!) author visit for our Middle School.

    I am curious though, if he was flying from Ohio- how does the ticket work out if you have to cancel at the last minute?

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