BEA 2012: A Spotty Alphabet
Author’s note – yes I know it’s 2013, but I just came across this article I wrote for BookBrunch, the industry news service. I’m just back from this year’s show (my 21st) and it’s still valid – mineral water is now $5 a bottle, people are still wandering helplessly looking for events (possibly from last year) and the queues for the loo are still serpentine. But actually, it’s genuinely about the buzz and IT’S NEW YORK.
From New York, Lisa Highton, Publisher of Two Roads at Hodder & Stoughton, offers a personal reflection from her twentieth BookExpo.
This year, BookExpo is about conferencing and events as much as the trade fair. While the exhibition space has shrunk, the lower level of the Javits is buzzing with people eager to go digital and learn new stuff. Also buzzing with people trying to find their way to lost meeting rooms. Signage people, signage.
All About the Reader
We are reaching out to them – a lot.
Possibly because I had three authors at BEA, I have a new respect for what author signings on this scale can do. A great set-up for an author – either debut or established. Packs of ever-patient, smiling publicists organising events and signings for authors. Many are called but few are chosen, so a BEA invitation is a privilege.
BEA’s Greatest Hits
The non-changing location of BookExpo prompted vets to reminisce about previous BEAs, as we still like to call them, which used to take us all over the States. Now we are forever in New York, which of course is never a bad thing. But see Javits. Anaheim – very bad, just one huge car park and no food. Las Vegas – historic, a rotting Cesar’s Palace hotel, equal parts Rat Pack DNA and Miss Havisham. New Orleans – excellent, despite subsequent acute pneumonia from ending up in bar at 4am in swamp. Los Angeles – rubbernecking. Bizarre encounter of British publishing and Playboy Mansion – the grimy grotto never to be forgotten. Chicago – uplifting. We were all much improved by Chicago walking tours and Frank Lloyd Wright. Washington – capitol.
With booksellers, sell-out ticketed events, and now broadcast live; breakfasts with librarians, influencers. Breakfasts: I don’t do breakfasts but thanks to technology I could watch great authors in the luxury of my own PJs. www.livestream.com/authorbreakfasts From Barbara Kingsolver to Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon. All brilliant. (Photo: Kingsolver with, left to right, Jo Nesbo, Junot Diaz, and Stephen Colbert. By SteveKagan.com)
Discoverability, of course, is outstripping curating. Reaching the Reader is the theme. Neil Young will be putting this to music and releasing on his newly announced tour.
Editors Buzz Panel
Barbara Kingsolver – author breakfast talking about physical form of books and how people resist change: “We complain, we get over it and what endures is story.” Bookseller proudly waving her signed copy of Naomi Wolf’s new book (Vagina): “Naomi Wolf signed my Vagina!” Bookseller in mile-long queue for Rachel Ray’s Burger Matters: “Of course I’m a vegetarian.” J R Moehringer’s new book on criminal Willie Sutton… who was asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money was.”
Galleys & Giveaways
See Tote Bags. Hottest galleys: Tigers in Red Weather/Harold Fry.
While we’re all very professional now, it was nice to see out-of-work actors and models dressed up as angels/devils/tomatoes giving away Things (see Tote Bags)
Seeing books I acquired with a good shot at US success. No names, no pack drill.
Under scaffolding. A good thing. Attendants with the paddles saying “May I Help You?” They can’t. Dizzying prices – a small bottle of water is $3.65 and a cappuccino $6. Really? Call the pricing commission.
Yes, they’re still going, although few are now open to all, but a special nod to my group’s 175th Birthday Party for Little, Brown. An old-style gracious party for the great and the good – cast-list included Tom Wolfe, Michael Connelly, Donna Tartt, among many others. And a call-out for Janklow & Nesbit cupcakes at theirs.
While things are tight in their market, right now the US has more of this with the possible exception of those Brazilians.
Seeing books I turned down set for US success. No names, no pack drill.
Signings signings signings (I want to buy shares in Sharpies). Cocktail parties, dinners… Wind up an author and let them go make their book work. There’s a charming democracy to this. Everyone works hard in less-than-glam surroundings, from Peter Carey to a first-time novelist. While many signed copies undoubtedly end up being sold, the majority of requests are genuine and it’s a real opportunity to connect with the author and for the author to connect with people who can help make their book work. Cannot be cynical about this process and not even trying.
(above, Will Schwalbe)
The Hot Ticket
Neil Young and Patti Smith. Without a doubt. Couldn’t get in.
What will we do with all of these? Be buried in them?
US Trade Paperbacks
The nicest, best-produced paperback format in the world. There, I’ve said it.
Oh the irony of discussing digital in a concrete bunker, get broadband people, get broadband.