Behind the Scenes: Joys of the New Year

Anne Pilkey wears her Snuggie everyday.

The beginning of a new year always brings a few special joys here into the WordFest office, such as announcements of the beginning of impossibly difficult cleanses, my Snuggie to help stave off the January cold, and of course a more-than advisable amount of green tea. But none are so momentous (and fun) as the arrival of 2011 publisher catalogues.

Aside from taking each book seriously and working as hard as we possibly can to learn about each and every title, the catalogues can also become a great source of amusement for the entire staff. Take for example, the romance section. Although not meant to be humorous, it’s hard not to blush at book covers that feature toned and tanned biceps clutching buxom blonde heroines that feature titles like Disciples of the Whip. And then of course there are the books that are actually meant to be funny, with titles such as Marrying Mr. Good Enough, Arsetrology-How Your Poo Can Predict the Future, Is it Just Me or Has the S*** Hit the Fan? and so forth. Secondly, these catalogues offer us a glimpse into not only future books, but upcoming trends. Has anyone noticed the huge amount of books coming out about knitting? I must admit I feel a bit behind knowing I couldn’t crochet a sock to save my life.

So you’re probably wondering how we sift through hundreds of catalogues, containing thousands of books, to land on less than one hundred titles when all is said and done. Well you are in luck, I feel another list coming on and it goes something like this…

  1. the catalogues arrive
  2. we look through the catalogues and flag what interests us, or what publicists have spoken to us about
  3. we meet with publishers and we learn more about said catalogues, as well as surprise authors (link to my post about Toronto meetings)
  4. books then come flooding in by the hundreds, which we all devour at a surprisingly quick rate
  5. we decide what books are interesting, and who we would like to come to the Festival
  6. publicists facilitate our invitations to authors

There are also many ways that we can hear about a book, the publisher catalogue is just one of them. Word-of-mouth, recommendations, print or online reviews are another of the few ways we learn about what’s out there. And sometimes, during those rare, gem-like moments, we dream about an author we would like to present, and he or she happens to be touring! The stars are truly aligned for us when we can make things like this happen, but this is all part of the magic of working at a literary festival.

Circling back to my reason for writing this post (other than to brag about how much fun my next few months will be) another revelation that comes from reading these catalogues is just how many books come out each year, on almost any topic that you can imagine. This observation will bring us seamlessly to the conclusion of my post: if you have made a new year’s resolution this year, start by picking up a book on whatever you have resolved to do. I will GUARANTEE that you can find guidance on any topic of your choice in a book, and unlike the crap that you read on blogs and random websites, I believe the published word is a little more trustworthy.


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