Authors Bring Books to Airports, Fans Bring Boarding Passes
by: David Roth
A few weeks ago, Kostya Kennedy sat at a small table just past the security checkpoint inside LaGuardia Airport's Terminal D. Surrounding him were copies of his new book and the everyday chaos of air travel. It was an unlikely spot for a literary event.
Mr. Kennedy, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated and author of "56," a study of Joe DiMaggio's 1941 hitting streak, had been invited by an airport bookstore to sign copies of the book, greet customers and answer travelers' questions about the Yankee great. A steady stream of departers and arrivers rolled suitcases past the author as announcements of gate changes crackled through speakers overhead.
|Author Betty N. Thesky, left, and a Hudson Books |
representative at JFK airport for a book signing.
"When you do these in a bookstore, you're dealing with regular customers—people who are coming in to buy a book," Mr. Kennedy said. "You never know who you're going to meet in an airport."
The less-than-bookish environs have become normal for Mr. Kennedy. The three-hour session at LaGuardia marked the final leg of an all-airport publicity tour for the New York-based author, who had already held events at Newark and Kennedy airports. Of course, New York-area fans of the author could not attend—unless they had a boarding pass.
More than a few authors have started using airport bookstores to promote their works. The Hudson Group, which operates newsstands and bookstores in 70 airports and transportation hubs in the U.S. and Canada, has hosted events with, among others, Madeleine Albright, Charles Ogletree, Magic Johnson, Cesar Millan and Donald Trump. The retailer even lists upcoming airport book events on its Facebook page. (In related news: even airport bookstores have Facebook pages.)
Indeed, at high-traffic airports such as those in the Greater New York area, signings have become commonplace. During the recent BookExpo America fair, an annual gathering of publishing professionals and authors at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the Paradies Shops had three signing events scheduled at each of its Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia bookstores.
"It depends on the author, of course," said Shannon Twomey, a senior publicist at Viking Books, "but a lot are really gung ho about signing stock."
Airport book signings won't supplant traditional book tours anytime soon, but maximizing publicity opportunities, even during an author's travel layover, makes sense for publishing houses as marketing budgets shrink and traditional bookstores vanish. Hudson News's transit locations make up 10% or more of total sales for some books that the retailer keeps in heavy stock, said Sara Hinckley, a company vice president.
Many airport book signings are what Ms. Hinckley terms "fly-bys"—opportunities for traveling authors to press the flesh between flights. Hudson News bookstores at Newark and Kennedy airports were recently treated to unscheduled signings by Ice-T and Rob Lowe, she said.
"A lot of times, if they're flying through, out of the blue [authors] will show up and sign their books," said Nuris Rodriguez, an assistant manager for Paradies, which operates the LaGuardia bookstore where Mr. Kennedy recently appeared. "When Joan Collins passes through, she signs all her books."
There are, of course, downsides to the life of an airport author: Your audience is often in a hurry and wishing to be somewhere else. But an appearance in a travel hub offers authors the sort of exposure that can be hard to come by at a time when multi-city publicity tours are less common. "It's not just people from New York who want to talk about Joe DiMaggio," Mr. Kennedy said of his airport encounters. "I've gotten people from all over who want to talk—a guy from Omaha, a few people from Texas."
Mr. Kennedy's three-airport book tour capped a spate of promotional appearances on television and radio, making the airport visits some of his only opportunities to meet potential readers in person. "There have definitely been times," the author said, "when I've thought, 'Man, if only I'd written about transportation."
from: Wall Street Journal