When the sun slips behind the waves at The Cove, the busy Village sidewalks grow quiet. Yet, there’s light streaming out of the book-filled windows of Warwick’s at 7812 Girard Ave. in La Jolla . There must be another exciting author appearance afoot.
There’s rarely a day that goes by where a loyal reader doesn’t approach the Book Desk and place a request for a certain author to be brought to the country’s oldest family-owned-and-operated bookstore.
“Why don’t you get Michelle Obama to come to Warwick’s to sign her book?”
“Hey, how do you choose what authors to appear?”
There is a method to the apparent madness. What may appear as a random act in an ever-changing circus world of publishing is actually a carefully planned show that runs throughout the year. The Ringmaster at Warwick’s Events Department for the past eight years is Julie Slavinsky.
“I’ve been a book nerd all my life, so getting to have this kind of access to the pulse of the publishing industry is pretty great,” Julie says.
Although she has been in the book industry for over 13 years, it takes more than experience to create a successful Events Program. Aside from knowing what authors are popular right now, you have to be plugged into the authors that are going to be popular in the future. So, you have to add fortune teller to your skill set.
But that’s not all.
Most publishers break down their touring plans into three seasons. The current titans of the publishing world (think Penguin Random House, MacMillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins), typically send out 100-150 authors per season to tour in support of their books. Julie is constantly checking the touring calendar 6 to 8 months in advance to see if any of those authors are touring California. Then, it’s time for her to use her skills and cajoling, which would make a Marrakesh market-trader envious.
You’d think the sunny beaches of La Jolla would be a shoo-in to entice an author. However, it’s the publisher that holds the touring purse strings and they are looking first at places like New York City, Chicago and LA. While San Diego is a top tourist destination, that fact doesn’t always translate into large event attendance. With publishers shrinking their touring budgets, the competition is fierce. However, that’s where Julie shines.
Thanks to her keen eye and persistence, Warwick’s hosts some pretty amazing authors. La Jolla’s favorite bookstore brings in over 200 author events per year. When asked to name one of her favorite events, Julie said: “Sebastian Barry. It was the best of a solo performance — his theatrical reading, and then he broke into a Civil War battlefield song ... just amazing! “
Surprisingly, not all authors are comfortable touring for their books. Often, an author will ask for advice just before they go out to the podium. “I always tell them: ‘Give the audience something that they couldn’t Google about you,’ ” Julie reveals, ‘“And be authentic because a little behind-the-scenes is why people come out of their houses and take the time to listen to an author presentation.’ ”
Although most authors can be accommodated in the Book Department at Warwick’s, sometimes an event is so large that it becomes necessary to find a large auditorium. Again, that’s where Julie’s talent of working with people is invaluable. She has formed partnerships with the University of San Diego, the La Jolla Riford Library, and the Balboa Theater to host events that have ranged from 250 to 1,000 attendees. All the while, her personal touch and attention to detail have given such events a comfortable “local feel.”
Like any bookseller worth their salt, Julie has to be a strong reader as well. Often she can be seen out on the Warwick’s floor telling a customer all about her latest favorite read. Like all of us, she does have some favorite writers. “Colum McCann or Sebastian Barry,” are her favorites, she said. “Both are fantastic writers and it was amazing meeting them – they definitely lived up to expectations. I truly savor every sentence in their books.”
As for her favorite deceased author, it’s Pat Conroy. “One of my favorite passages is from ‘Prince of Tides,’ ” she said.
In the end, if you want to continue to see authors make La Jolla one of their stops, please come out to their signings. Find the schedule at warwicks.com or call (858) 454-0347.
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