Powell's to Take Authors Out of the Book™
March 21, 2007, Portland, OR Before MTV launched in 1981, fans knew their favorite musicians from album covers and liner notes. Music has come a long way in twenty-six years. Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, believes it's time for books to catch up.
"Can video save the literary star?" today's edition of the New York Times wants to know. "The venerable independent bookstore in Portland, Ore. [is] planning a new series of short films featuring authors, to be shown at bookstores, movie-premiere style."
On June 1st, during Book Expo America, booksellers and publishers will get their first peek at Out of the Book™, a new series of short films about notable authors. The 23-minute premiere will feature bestselling novelist Ian McEwan, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award (2002, for Atonement), the Booker Prize (1998, Amsterdam), and the Whitbread Award (1997, The Child in Time).
McEwan's first novel in more than two years, On Chesil Beach, will be published on June 5 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.
Two weeks after Out of the Book's New York City premiere, more than fifty bookstores around the country will host screenings from Vroman's in Pasadena, California, to Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Each bookseller will tailor its event to suit local interests and resources, supplementing the film with panel discussions, dramatic readings from McEwan's work, and in some venues even live music. All screenings will take place between June 13 and 17.
Out of the Book's debut will include extensive interviews with the author in London, commentary from peers, critics, and fans, on-location footage from the novel's setting, a lively soundtrack, and likely a few surprises. The series aims "to deliver compelling portraits of writers, to entertain while it informs."
"One hundred thousand readers visit Powells.com on a typical day, and many of them come for the content interviews, original essays, daily book reviews, and a blog," says Dave Weich, Out of the Book's creator. "These films are simply an extension of what Powell's has been doing online for years. The difference is that instead of waiting for people to visit the site, we're taking authors directly to their audience."
Nearly two hundred authors have spoken about their work with Powells.com since the independent bookseller began publishing in-depth interviews in 1999. Some Salman Rushdie, Susan Orlean, and Philip Pullman have visited more than once.
"The ambition of publishers is to bring writers' voices to more and more readers, and Powell's new program promises exactly that. It is a brilliant idea," says Nan Talese, publisher of Nan A. Talese/Doubleday and McEwan's long-time editor.
Out of the Book's first edition will be directed by filmmaker Doug Biro. From 1995 to 2003, Biro was vice-president/creative director at RCA Records. He recently produced and directed Herbie Hancock: Possibilities for Magnolia Home Entertainment. Biro's music videos include clips for Rufus Wainwright, Kings of Leon, and Natalie Cole.
"It's important to experiment with new models for engaging audiences with books and authors," believes Cindy Dach, marketing director at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona, recently crowned Bookseller of the Year by Publishers Weekly. "Film allows the audience to connect in a familiar way to an otherwise solitary experience, and that creates community around a book. I'm excited to see the conversation that bookstores around the country can produce."
What will Powell's do for an encore? Weich is currently in discussion with several parties. The company promises at least one more feature before the holidays.
"We're thrilled to start with such a widely read, critically acclaimed author as Ian McEwan," Weich admits. "We're setting the bar high."