Curiosity Quills recently had the pleasure of speaking with Seattle’s Third Place Books’ former Director of Events & Marketing Wendy Ceballos.
Seattle is losing you to New York City, where based on your track record, I’m presuming you’re running for governor. You’ve obviously been an incredible asset to Third Place Books. Considering that you grew up in Washington, as far as I know, then went to UW, and worked at Third Place for nearly 20 years, moving to NYC is a huge change. It’s a bold, courageous thing to do. What made you decide to do it, and how do you want things to change for you there?
I fell in love with New York on my first visit over 10 years ago. I had just taken over managing our events program and we were there to meet with publishers and pitch Third Place Books as THE place for author events. It quickly became my go to vacation spot for a few years, I would house sit for friends in the middle of August when it’s insanely hot…that’s how in love I was. So, this move is a long time dream coming together with an amazing wife that was game and a year of intense planning. And, I did have a friend in publishing tell me to ‘just rip the band aid off’ and move at BEA in 2014, and for some reason that spoke to me.
You’ve served as the content strategist for all of Third Place Books’ online platforms, and you’ve developed the social media outreach for the store. Can you tell us more about getting that system in place, and a few of the challenges you encountered with that?
The biggest challenge at the very beginning with building our social media presence was buy in from staff. For a long time it wasn’t viewed as a legitimate marketing tool, but something I wanted to goof around on. Of course that was at the platforms and then, of course, we now have data. Data that proves those cute cats snuggling with books are what our readers want to see!
Can you give a few tips for authors who are working with bookstore staff to put on a great event?
Be nice to your booksellers, they are the ones talking to potential readers AFTER your event. Events can be nerve wracking for authors, there is a lot of internal pressure but always remember you want booksellers to be your allies after your event.
You have made a Herculean effort to put systems in place in a lot of areas. Tell us about one of the systems that really clicked, and how you could tell that it was working and paying off.
The biggest thing that has paid off for me, authors, my staff, and our readers has been creating an actual events department at our main store, where most Third Place events are held. In addition to my role, which oversees everything, we now have a hosting team, we have someone that makes in-store signs, someone that manages the events table, we have a graphic designer that puts our calendar together, we have an event coordinator at our LFP store that takes on all the day-of details and manages the hosting team, we now have an offsite department with an offsite events manager (Sam Kaas, formerly of Village Books), and we have an information flow that supports everyone and gets them the info they need to do their job which then supports a successful program. That makes me feel productive, and I’m leaving my replacement Zak with something he can navigate easily in the beginning. I’m sure he will revolutionize our programming and systems even further!
What’s your secret to getting things done? How do you stay focused and productive?
Lists and keeping my inbox organized by which hat I wear. Also a little tidbit from a flow chart featured in Getting Things Done by David Allen. ‘Will it take less than 2 minutes? Yes? DO IT! Seriously it changed my life, when you are busy you have a tendency to feel like the little stuff can be put off but it’s the other way around. Clear the clutter, clear your mind.
And when you need to step back and regain some energy, what are your favorite things to do?
Aside from reading, travel! I took my first solo trip abroad when I was 37. I waited WAY too long. I’ve since made up for it by traveling to Spain, France, Taiwan (twice), Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Iceland, and Mexico. I think 90% of the joy and benefit of traveling is in the planning stage so when I need to unwind I jump on airbnb or some of my favorite travel blogs..
Finally, could you recommend a few books you read recently and loved?
I’m reading Insomniac City by Bill Hayes right now. It’s really so perfect, he’s just moved to New York and is seeing the city with fresh eyes. It’s as if he’s encouraging me in my new adventure, and his relationship with Oliver Sachs is really touching.
And I always recommend The Ice Trilogy by Vladimir Sorokin, READ IT!!