Cohen brings energy, experience to Books by the Banks

You may have heard his distinct voice on the radio touting the benefits of Grand Victoria Casino, or waxing poetic about Skyline or Gold Star Chili. But local voice artist Howard Cohen’s first loves are books and music, so after nearly 20 years in the publishing industry, he feels right at home at Books by the Banks.

This year, his third at the five-year-old festival of local, regional and national authors, Cohen serves as volunteer co-chair of the author team. “We came up with a wish list of authors that we went after,” he says. Connections from his former life as a book publicist helped land authors from major publishing houses, including Lions of the West author Robert Morgan and former Cincinnatian Brock Clarke, author of Exley.

All together, more than 100 authors will spend time chatting and signing books at the Duke Energy Center downtown this Saturday at the free festival. Cohen sees it as a natural byproduct of the city’s literary strengths. “We’ve got this rich tradition,” says Cohen, 45, of Kennedy Heights. “Cincinnati is always listed as one of the top ten most literary cities in the country, and it seems as though we have people who read.”

Cohen left the pressures of the publishing industry, stepped up his voice work and took at job as a crew member at Trader Joes. Helping shape and promote Books by the Banks allows him to dip his toes back into the world he will always love.

“I missed being in books,” he says. With electronic books and e-readers gaining traction in the marketplace, he feels even more confident that the future of reading is bright. “The book is not going to go away, it is just going to be read differently.”

?He’s particularly proud that Books by the Banks offers authors and events for kids, making the downtown trip a budget-friendly family outing. This year, Biscuit author Alyssa Satin Capucilli and local favorite author/illustrator Will Hillenbrand offer star power for young readers.

For his part, Cohen also worked to expand the reach of the festival online, using Facebook and Twitter to generate more buzz and raise awareness of an event he wishes more locals knew about.

Do Good:

• Attend. Visit Books by the Banks in its fifth year, Sat., Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Be a fan. Catch all the latest news about the festival on Facebook.

Tweet all about it. And remember to tweet at and about the festival #bbtb.

By Elissa Yancey