Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book Promotion at a Glamorous Party

Sometimes promoting a new book can take the author to a glamorous setting. Being invited to show and talk about your book at a party can be one of those occasions. On January 20, Encompass New Opera Theatre under the leadership of Nancy Rhodes orchestrated a fundraising party in New York City. Rhodes and Encompass developed, directed, and premiered Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On, my opera with composer William Banfield. Since one facet of The Steiny Road to Operadom is about the development of my Stein opera and Encompass was showcasing the innovative work they do in the field of new opera and music theater, it made sense for me to attend with a few books in hand.

Prior to performances by several singers, I had a chance to let them see the book. Tenor Justin Vickers’ name appears in The Steiny Road book because he played Leo Stein (Gertrude’s brother) in the world premiere of the Stein opera. In the showcase program, Vickers sang “O might those sighes and teares,” a poem by John Donne that was set to music by Benjamin Britten. When I complimented Vickers on his performance, he told me he had done extensive study of Britten’s work. I’m a fan of this tenor not only because his singing and acting skills are outstanding but also because he is such an intelligent interpreter of the roles he sings. Participating in workshops prior to the world premiere of my opera, Vickers helped me strengthen the character of Leo Stein, the art critic brother who found his sister’s writing embarrassing.

Because an opera company must always be proactive in raising money to continue its work (even a full house for an entire set of performances will not cover the cost of a production), my interaction with the invited potential patrons needed to be low key. Expecting about fifty to sixty people at this event, I brought three copies of The Steiny Road and put two out on a big coffee table. The third copy I handed to Nancy Rhodes so she could hold it up when she made remarks about her theater and the show she had organized.

I also brought about thirty half sheets of paper that provided information about The Steiny Road book, including a comment from a New York City arts educator and the book’s blog where a potential buyer could order the book. This information also highlighted that Nancy Rhodes wrote the foreword of The Steiny Road. Connecting the dots for people to whom you hope to sell a book is critical. I sold two copies of the book and asked Nancy to take the third copy to her office where she could show it to people visiting her there. Raising awareness and showing who you are aligned with are both important in the party circuit. The event was not about how many books could be sold.

While I was in New York, I also visited two bookstores to see about creating an event focused on selling The Steiny Road book. What I determined is that I need to bring together several organizations to help present a special program with a short performance selected from Gertrude Stein Invents a Jump Early On. One of the two bookstores I visited has a small theater and a great midtown location. One thing I know about bookstore readings is that you need a large invitation list to get just a handful of people and that’s why I need a bunch of organizations behind any event I plan outside of my hometown. Before I say what I have in mind, I need to approach my contacts and see what is possible.

Photos: #1 includes composer John David Earnest (on far left) and Nancy Rhodes. #3 Karren Alenier and composer Philip Hagemann. #4&5 Tenor Justin Vickers. #6 Nancy Rhodes. #7 Mezzo Soprano Yong Kyung Park. #9 Soprano Lorraine Hinds. #10 Baritone Dominic Inferrera.

Opera Links
Encompass New Opera Theatre website
John Yaffe, Music Director of Encompass
John David Earnest
Opera Index
Tenor Justin Vickers
Baritone Dominic Inferrera

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