Mailchimp Hosts “By the Books,” a Literary Festival to Go

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Summer may be drawing to a close, but Mailchimp’s summer reading program is as strong as ever.

The Atlanta-based masters of marketing have long partnered with the Decatur Book Festival to bring a diverse group of writers to the fore. The 2020 landscape is very different for authors—in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, book tours and festivals, crucial outlets for many, have been scrapped, lessening visibility and sales, not to mention vital perspective.

So Mailchimp pivoted, and “By the Book: A Collection of Rising Voices” was born.

“Our summer reading partnership with the Decatur Book Festival has long been one of my favorite Mailchimp programs, and when the festival was cancelled this year, we had to find a new way to promote these authors facing disrupted book launches and an uncertain moment in publishing,” says Sarita Alami, director of programming for Mailchimp Studios. “‘By the Books’ is an attempt to take the book festival experience online, to curate new conversations, commission new writing and provide a space to engage with stories that we want to share.”

True to its usual form, the company utilizes design and illustration to gather and magnify a powerful ensemble of works. There are many entry points into the virtual fest, but the cornerstone is a collection of 14 books curated by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow—hosts of Call Your Girlfriend and co-authors of Big Friendship—championing fresh ideas and progressive thought.

Ashley C. Ford, meanwhile, offers a curated set of literary essays for Mailchimp, while Sow and Friedman deepen the book selections with a series of conversations with authors including Cathy Park Hong, Curtis Sittenfeld and Danez Smith.

“By the Books” then springs to visual life via the new Book Shook series, featuring Reese Witherspoon, Jameela Jamil and Yara Shahidi reflecting on books that moved them, alongside bi-weekly documentaries and short films, including I Am Not Your Negro, Public Speaking: Fran Lebowitz and more.

Finally, Mailchimp provides an audio component with the new podcast The Books That Changed Us, hosted by Aaron Lammer and Max Linsky of Longform. It kicked off with guests Shea Serrano and Saeed Jones.

All told, “By the Books” is a brilliant literary festival to-go—and a testament to the power of what companies can build when they go against the grain of the usual bland business advice to stay in their lane.