Q: Describe for us what it is you do and the goals of Kim Ricketts Book Events.
Kim: The goal of my company is to connect people and ideas by weaving books and authors into people’s daily lives—at work, at play, at dinner. I meet regularly with publishers and authors to track who has a new book coming out—and then match them with an appropriate and connected audience to discuss the book. For example, if a chef has a new cookbook coming out, we will plan a Cooks and Books Visiting Chef Series dinner at a local restaurant with the visiting chef, and include a copy of the book for each guest in a ticket price that includes all courses and wines (and the dinner will be inspired by recipes in the cookbook and created by a local chef). Or, if an author has a new book coming out on robotics, I will arrange a talk for him at Microsoft Research, and personally invite the team working on robotics to the talk; and if a journalist has a new book coming out I will arrange for a lunchtime talk at CNET Headquarters, the internet news company. In this way everyone benefits: authors get to speak to a connected audience, publishers sell more books, and individuals and communities get to listen to and connect with an author they are excited about.
Q: How did you come to start your book events business?
Kim: During the 1990’s I worked in a large independent bookstore creating and coordinating a full calendar of author-based events. During this time I became acquainted with Linda Stone, who created the Microsoft Research Visiting Speaker Series. We decided to begin working together, streaming authors into the series when they were in Seattle, and soon a visit to Microsoft became one of the more successful events for the author. Starbucks then approached me to create an Author Series for their onsite book club and HQ, and these two companies kept me so busy with their author events that
I decided to leave the bookstore and form my own company—creating and coordinating events everywhere *except* in a bookstore. My company, now five years old, has corporate and non-profit clients in Seattle and San Francisco, and we create and coordinate approximately 300 author-based events per year. I began my company with a firm belief that people want new ideas, stories, and thinkers in their daily lives, and I have happily found that to be true!
Q: What have been the biggest hurdles you have had to overcome in your career?
Kim: The biggest hurdles to my company have been convincing a very traditional publishing world that they need to move beyond the bookstore model to get books to people in their busy lives. I am a huge fan of bookstores and still spend lots of time and money in them; I just know a lot of people who love and buy books, but don’t get their books from visiting a bookstore. If we want people to continue buying books we need to get them to people in any way that we can. In a time of Google and Amazon, we cannot control “access” to books and authors—nor should we, if we want to expand the audience for books.
Traditional booksellers have also had a hard time understanding that I am expanding the audience for books, not competing with them; in fact, I am still not considered a true “independent bookseller” until I have a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. I believe that this will change in the very near future, and authors are so enthusiastic about participating in our events that their enthusiasm alone is changing minds in the publishing world.
Q: Given that Seattle has been ranked as the most literate city in America, how integral is location to your business?
Kim: Seattle is truly unique in its support of literacy, and I do think that plays a role in our success here—after all, three of the most important forces in non-traditional bookselling are based here; Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco. In addition, our two library systems are some of the busiest in the nation, so we have a culture that reads and supports authors and the written word. That being said, we are also finding success in San Francisco and a few other places—and we are targeting future clients in cities that, like ours, have an arts and knowledge-based culture. Companies that hire us to stream authors into their workplaces are typically companies that really understand the value of getting your employees together to discuss new ideas and concepts, and I know that there are other cities that value innovation as much as we do here—we just have to find them.
UPDATE: Sadly, in April 2011, Kim Ricketts died at the age of 53 from blood cancer. May her love of books live on in all of us!