Category Book Expo

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.

Author Events
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.

Breakfasts
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)

Buzz words
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
Editoridol.

Favourite Quotes
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.

Gimmicks
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)

Happiness
Seeing books I acquired with a good shot at US success. No names, no pack drill.

Javits
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.

Parties
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.

Perk
While things are tight in their market, right now the US has more of this with the possible exception of those Brazilians.

Remorse
Seeing books I turned down set for US success. No names, no pack drill.

Signings
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.

Tote Bags
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

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said it.

Wifi

Oh the irony of discussing digital in a concrete bunker, get broadband people, get broadband.

Book Expo is the foremost US book trade fair and, I think, fair to say unique around the world. I don’t know of anywhere else that has such total focus on connecting booksellers, librarians, bloggers, influencers of all shades and writers and their new books from breakfast to nightfall. Booksellers, librarians, publishers and authors come from all

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over the country to beguile and be beguiled — publishers are doing everything in their power to help make good word of mouth happen. And there’s no formula for that, it really is magic.

Hachette stand BEA

A small shot of the fair, with the Hachette stand in sight

As well as authors speaking almost continuously for four days there are the signing sessions, hundreds and hundreds of proofs given away and booksellers lining up to get them signed and to chat with their authors (in some case their heroes, e.g. Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith and in some cases complete unknowns). These are held in what’s called the sheep pens, a remarkably democratic affair, reducing all authors to a talking Sharpie (the ubiquitous signing pen). Even the editors get in on the act. There is a session called the Editors Buzz Panel (or Editoridol as it’s nicknamed), in which 6 prominent editors speak passionately about the book on their list they love the most. This year’s six were:

  • The People Of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
  • In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
  • Panorama City by Antoine Wilson
  • A Million Heavens by John Brandon
Karen Engelmann signs The Stockholm Octavo at BEA

Karen signs proofs of The Stockholm Octavo at BEA

Interesting to check out their fates in a year’s time.

 

Will Schwalbe signing BEA

Will signs The End of Your Life Book Club proofs at BEA

Three Two Roads authors were also working hard at BEA. Karen Engelmann, THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO; Will Schwalbe, THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB and Gretchen Rubin, HAPPIER AT HOME. Here are some shots of their

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signing sessions and some general pics of the weird and the wonderful!

 

For as much as publishing is a very professional business, with much at stake BEA also has a streak of daftness. Long may that continue.

There are more postings and photos of BEA on our Facebook page here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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