PR persistence helps Tulsa enjoy reading renaissance

In a recent column, I mentioned a rise in book buying. Yeah, I know, I'm as shocked and appalled as you are. (I work in the film industry. If there's something in a book you need to know about, we'll tell you in a movie, thanks very much.)

In a recent column, I mentioned a rise in book buying. Yeah, I know, I'm as shocked and appalled as you are. (I work in the film industry. If there's something in a book you need to know about, we'll tell you in a movie, thanks very much.)

And it's not just on the coasts where this "reading thing" is going on. People are doing it across the US, including in Tulsa, OK, where a book signing by David Sedaris drew overflow crowds.

Booking Sedaris, who's on a 30-city tour for the paperback release of Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy, was quite a score for the local Barnes & Noble, due in no small measure to the efforts of Jeff Martin, the store's community relations manager.

"We've wanted to have David here for a long time, so we've been persistent in going though proper channels to express our interest," says Martin. "We felt we could get a strong turnout to hear him speak."

Martin had four months lead time to publicize the author's appearance. He worked diligently with publicists at publisher Little-Brown to coordinate the visit.

"We blanketed the city with ads on TV and in the paper," Martin notes. "We did a joint promotion with 25 branches of the public library. We also listed the event in the store's monthly newsletter and did an advance phone interview with David on the local NPR station, KWGS."

I haven't read Sedaris' two bestsellers - Dress and Me Talk Pretty One Day, but they are both on my bookshelf. (A wise person once said that we buy books because they provide the illusion that we're also buying the time to read them.)

Martin, who has been with Barnes & Noble for five years, took a job with the store right out of high school, starting as a bookseller and working his way into a communications position. Unlike most college communications graduates, he learned the business first, then went about acquiring the necessary PR skills.

"I was always interested in the publicity side and had an eye toward that as I worked in the retail operation," he says. In addition to liaising with media, Martin has dealt with several prominent authors on book tours, including David McCullough, whose latest, 1776, is atop the bestseller list.

I left the store with a signature and three books. Most of all, the notion that a liberal Paris-based author can draw crowds in "red" Tulsa is reassuring. Maybe the so-called cultural divide isn't so great after all.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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