ORINDA -- For Wendy Pearl, being a sales rep for Penguin Books has been more than just the business of selling bound volumes. She doesn't merely work behind the scenes -- she's immersed herself into the heart of bookstore scene, one bookseller and one reader at a time.
Pearl, who works closely with independent local booksellers to get Penguin Books into Bay Area stores, said she looks forward to meeting the readers.
"By far, the best part of my job as a Penguin sales rep is reading a manuscript, especially by unknown writer, and then getting a ton of people excited about the book and then seeing the book really work and sell a lot of copies," said Pearl.
She and her publishing industry colleagues Ron Shoop of Random House and Dandy Conway of Random House Children's Books will discuss book title suggestions for holiday gifts as well as reading trends for all year long at noon, Dec. 15 during the store's Book and Art Extravaganza at Orinda Books.
"We'll be talking about hardcovers, paperbacks, kids' books and the newest books coming out from Penguin," said Pearl. "It's like having a personal shopper who has knowledge about the best books that are out there."
Since her job entails advising booksellers on which books to highlight in the store, actually meeting readers in person at the bookstores is an event Pearl and her colleagues treasure, she said.
"We're doing everything we can to help independent booksellers," said Pearl, who often gets to meet the bestselling authors of the books she promotes. "When I talk to customers, I find that they're interested in what the sales reps have to say about the books and publishing. Customers are happy to get a sneak peek on what's coming next season."
Pearl said that she and her colleagues not only want to suggest what books to give as gifts but also what books the customers may consider reading for themselves as well as book club picks. History, poetry, biographies on rock legends are among the books she's excited to share this season.
"I also enjoy a wonderful or extremely humorous memoir and compelling nonfiction narrative," Pearl said. "Any book that can make me laugh or cry, is a great book."
Some of her all-time favorite Penguin books include "The Kite Runner," "City of Thieves," "The Help," Let's Pretend this Never Happened" and "The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards," due out this March.
She said she often offers a readers' incentive that if they purchase one of the featured books at the event, customers may be entitled to receive an advance copy of yet-to-be-released book. Customers can also view "Wendy's Picks" on the Good Reads website for more book suggestions.
And since she's based in the Bay Area, Pearl said she's sensitive to the fact that Bay Area readers aren't necessarily be interested in what's being read on the East Coast, where most publishers are based.
Shoop, who frequently visits East Bay booksellers, said that in giving a book to someone else it's important to keep the recipient in mind. This helps broaden the customers' selection base, as the gift giver now has a variety of genres and titles to choose from.
"This book is going to be for someone else," he said. "Customers may not be interested in the book themselves but may be more confident in giving it to someone else."
Despite the economic outlook and advances in technology in the way books are published, sold and read, the present and future of traditional book publishing appears promising--all the more reason to support your local bookseller, Shoop said.
"This is a time of great hope and great opportunity," he said.
Shoop said that because he's constantly on the lookout for what readers are interested in, he knows what books, beyond what Random House offers, are flying off the shelves.
Books by Ina Garten, the "Barefoot Contessa," and a bio of Thomas Jefferson are among the books Shoop's excited about sharing. Even though "Gone Girl," by Gillian Flynn, has been out for awhile, it's still garnering attention, he said.
"This is a book that just doesn't quit," Shoop said. "The author delivers -- you can't put it down."
Author Helen Simonson's "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand," a Random House novel that published a couple of years ago is another one of his favorites.
"If you read this book, you're going to thank me," Shoop said.
He said one of the nicest things about mingling with publishing industry insiders at Orinda Books on Dec. 15 is the warmth that bookstore owner and her staff provides as well as the space provided for arts and crafts created by local craftsmakers which will also be featured that day.
"(Owner) Janet Boreta makes her bookstore a gathering place," Shoop said.
WHEN: Noon, Dec. 15
WHERE: Orinda Books, 276 Village Square, Orinda