Prime Women: One of the many programs that Book Passage has is your First Edition Book Club. In this club, you introduce wonderful new writers in a hard back format. (I am going to register for this club, myself.) Have you ever picked a future best seller? If yes, could you tell us about him, her or them?
Elaine Petrocelli: We would love to have you and your readers as First Edition Book Club members. It is very reasonable to belong. Just go to our website and click on “programs” and you will see our classes, conferences, and an explanation about the book club.
Yes! We have picked best sellers, even a Pulitzer Prize winner with the 2009 selection of Paul Harding’s “Tinkers.” Our second selection in 2003, when we started the club, was Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner.” If you go back and look at each year’s picks, you will see that we have predicted many best sellers like last year’s “All the Light We Cannot See.”
PW: Whoa! “The Kite Runner” was your second selection right out of the chute? That is impressive! I loved “All the Light We Cannot See.”
PW: This is the era of mega-hits like “The DaVinci Code and the Harry Potter books. None of these may have been great literature, but they sold millions of copies. Have you ever sold a 100 tickets to an author event but had a 1,000 people show up? Have you hosted Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling ?
EP: Well, J.K. Rowling didn’t need to go on book tours, and neither did Dan Brown once he published “The DaVinci Code.” We did have him to an author event for the book before “The DaVinci Code,” “Angels and Demons,” I believe it was.
PW: Which author has drawn the biggest crowd that you have ever had, and how big was it?
EP: The author was Al Gore, and the book was “Earth in Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.” We only had ten days’ notice that he was coming. Moreover, we were in the middle of our Mystery Writers Conference on the day he arrived. We told our writers conference students that they would get first choice on the seats.
Our staff put Mr. Gore in a room that would comfortably hold 300 people, but 1200 showed up! We had people standing and sitting everywhere! Closed circuit television helped a lot, and we could pipe his talk into every available room so that the overflow could listen and see him. It all went beautifully, but we had four times as many as we were expecting. You never know.
PW: Can you tell us about your classes for would-be writers. Who teaches them? Who attends? How about the Mystery Writers, the Travel Writers, and the Food Writers Conferences? I am very impressed with the instructors for your classes and conferences. Michael Connelly for your Mystery Writers Conference? Not bad!!
EP: We have over a 100 classes going on at any one time teaching would be writers how to write, and how to get their work published. If you are in a specialty like mystery writers, we bring in the best, like Michael Connelly as you mentioned. These instructors are very giving and teach the class everything they know. They share all kinds of secrets. We bring in ex-FBI agents to teach about specialties like blood splatter technology and forensics. I mean we really get into it. Our students love it.
We do the same for subjects like travel, food and cooking. Both of those are very popular as well.
Our very first class was taught by the fabulous novelist Annie LaMott. She was waitressing at the time, and we thought, “Why don’t we have her teach a class on writing instead?” Well, all these years and best sellers later, she still teaches a class for us once a year and every one of those 100 seats go quickly. Can you believe a beginning writer can have a class with her? Isn’t that great?
PW: I’d say so. What I love about all your programs is that they are win-win-win. The author wins because his or her books are sold. Book Passage wins because you sell books, the readers win because they receive wonderful new reading material.
This is a sustainable formula for success. I haven’t talked to a writer yet who doesn’t know your name and your stores. Congratulations! Thank you for visiting with us.