I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I just attended my first Publishing Cocktails event in Chicago last week. Publishing Cocktails began when two Chicago-area book people–Keir Graff and Javier Ramirez–decided to combine their separate book-networking efforts. Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and Ramirez is store manager at The Book Table in Oak Park, IL.
“Keir had been doing something with just editors for a few years,” says Ramirez, “and I had been doing something with everyone for 2-3 years prior to that. It was very informal.”
The first official Publishing Cocktails get-together was in December 2011 and has continued every 2 or 3 months on average since then.
“The idea behind Publishing Cocktails is simply to gather an extremely diverse cross-section of Chicago’s literary professionals for drinks and conversation: booksellers, authors, editors, publishers, publicists, publisher reps, agents, librarians, reviewers, and journalists,” Graff told me. “Shop-talk is encouraged, and networking happens, but we ask people to keep their business cards and promotional materials in their pockets unless someone asks for them. By focusing on the things that bring us together–books–all sorts of serendipitous things happen.”
Twice a year, the event adopts a theme–either a cash mob or a book swap. In December, the group held their fourth cash mob, rallying about 50 people to welcome Roscoe Books to Chicago in an hour-long cash mob. “It’s also really fun to see booksellers from other stores show up to support each other,” says Graff, “every cash mob has had a healthy turnout of folks from other stores.” Previous cash mob targets include Open Books, City Lit, and the Book Cellar.
The other “themed” event is held in each summer when the group hosts a book swap. Participants draw a wrapped book from a pile and then get a “sales pitch” from the person who brought it. “We ask everyone who’s going to attend to bring one of their favorite books, wrap it up,” says Ramirez. “Halfway through the evening we gather everybody around and challenge them to get out of their comfort zones. We have participants randomly choose a book, unwrap it and yell out the title. Whoever brought the book has to come up and tell why they brought it.”
Ramirez says that most participants walk away with a new book, and there’s not much overlap. “People are digging deep and choosing books from their collection,” he says. “Plus you get to meet someone you probably have never talked to before.”
The rest of the year gatherings focus on friendship and conversation. And cocktails. “We’ve had a National Book Award winner and a NBA finalist singing karaoke; we’ve had authors and booksellers decide to do events together; we’ve had authors find agents; and much more,” says Graff.
Despite the snow, cold and delays, my one experience with Publishing Cocktails has been extremely positive. I met so many great publishing folks who were willing to sing karaoke duets with me and have offered to buy donuts upon my return to Chitown. And I especially look forward to the book swap event.
In summer, you say?
Top image: James Kennedy sings Rosanna. Kennedy is the author of I’m the author of the YA fantasy The Order of Odd-Fish (Random House Delacorte, 2008). He also curates the @90secondnewbery Film Festival.
Second image: A Cash-Mob at Roscoe Books in Chicago, IL. Photo credit: Heidi Jo Brady.
Javier Ramirez is store manager for The Book Table in Oak Park, IL; Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books, most recently the middle-grade novel The Other Felix (Roaring Brook Press)… and he just sold another middle-grade novel, The Matchstick Castle, to Putnam.