Saturday, June 09, 2007

BEA Diary 2007

PROLOGUE

Go to Wednesday
Go to Thursday
Go to Friday
Go to Saturday
Go to Sunday
Go to Epilogue

I've got some real estate here in my bag

There are lots of parks in the world, but there is none quite like Central Park in New York City. Why? Because not only is it in the middle of the most exciting and energizing city on the planet, there are things that go on in the park that matter.

If you grew up in or near New York as I did there were life-changing events that happened in Central Park. One of them for me was the famous Simon & Garfunkel concert. I won't go into detail as it doesn't matter. What does matter is that I was back in New York for another BEA, and having taken the red-eye from California and not having a hotel room to check into early in the morning, I knew I could catch a few winks under a tree in the park, along with all the other 'homeless' people.

It is interesting to walk the same streets and grounds that you walked when you wore a younger man's clothes and walked with a jauntier step. Before taking a snooze under a large maple tree, I walked to the spot that I (think I) sat at when the famous duo got back together for a once-in-a-lifetime performance. As I sat there I wondered where the past 25 or so years had gone to. I'm soon to be sixty, but sitting there I was half that age, hearing the music, listening to the applause, remembering how it felt to be immortal.

Wednesday

Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends

I had several business appointments on Wednesday, one in Chinatown and one near Wall Street. I had not been in Chinatown since I was a boy... but walking up Mott Street... it was like nothing had changed there... same smells, same hustle and bustle. I then got a cab to the Wall Street, Twin-Towers area... and did something I'd always wanted to do... see Trinity Church. It's fun to be a tourist in New York.

Around 2 PM I took the subway (I bought one of those $24 unlimited weekly passes and quickly became a true subway maven. It's all color-coded... not like when I was a kid and you had to know the different lines... IRT, BMT, etc.) up to 57th Street and Seventh where PMA-U was being held. I wanted to see the vendors as I used to take a booth there... but since PMA priced me out of the market, I stopped exhibiting our Jaya123 system.

The vendors were gone. There was hardly anyone in the vendor area. Why? Because PMA (again!) had all the classes on the upper floors and the vendors were 'housed' (more like 'hosed') in the 'basement' such that the students went from class to class upstairs and never came down, except for lunch. You'd think PMA would have learned their lesson from the uproar when this happened several years ago in Chicago, but I guess they just don't care. Let's face it. There are not many places for book printers to get in front of prospects (even a limited number) and so PMA has them by the gonads.

That said, I noticed there were a lot of the usual 'victims' missing this year... T&S, Central Plains, M&G, Bookwrights Design, Data Repro, just to name a few. From what the few vendors who were there told me, those who missed it didn't miss much because there was not much face-time with the students.

Anyway, around 5:30 PM I ran into Shel Horowitz, Deb Robson, and a few others. We started the short walk to Kennedy's Restaurant for the annual Pub-Forum List dinner. Of course, we had the wrong directions so by the time we found the place, the party was well in swing.


Steve, Brian and Paulette... all old friends of mine

It's always good to see Brian J. and Paulette E.(the booklet queen), as well as my competitor for many years, Steve C.


Marion G., Jay B. and Florrie (Madam PMA President) K. (center)

No good times, no bad times
There's no times at all
Just The New York Times

If was good to meet Dick Margulis. We've fought some knock-down drag-out battles on the Internet. I was surprised. In person he is really quite nice. (I guess people say the same about me?) The guy must be a babe-magnet as he had Deb and Tordis next to him. Tordis told me a big secret about one of her books... but I can't tell you about it.


Dick, Deb, and Tordis (from Vermont)

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside

And would you believe that Shel had a super-hot date? I'm talking Major Babe. I don't know who she is but she wasn't with me... and that hurt. When a guy wearing a seven year old T-shirt under a Goodwill sports coat can out-score me, I know I'm in trouble!


Shel and Super-Babe!

At the dinner I was fortunate to sit next to two of the most delightful people in the publishing world, Andrew Martonyi and his drop-dead gorgeous wife. I beat the hell out of him for not carrying a copy of his Little Man in the Map book and we were in stitches the whole evening.


Andrew and a non-desperate wife!

Sitting behind me was the one and only Jacqueline Simonds from Beagle Bay (as well as the list-mom of the hated Self-Pub list which won't let me post anything more salient then "How to get an ISBN!") She told me that she is getting into the distribution game in a big way. She is one that Midpoint might be looking over their shoulder at because Ms. Simonds has a good head for business.


The author and the pirate girl

We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files
We'd like to help you learn to help yourself

Which brings me to the closing chapter on the annual list dinner. We all get up and give a short spiel about ourselves, something that no one knows about you. I got up and said "Hi, my name is Michael Kennedy." I then told them about my secret dinner with Dan Pointer at a restaurant he chose last BEA. Very fancy. We walked in and after sitting down the drink waitress came and gave us drinks. A bit later the bread waitress came and gave us bread. A few minutes later the water waitress came and gave us water. Next the head waitress came and gave us.... I love going out to dinner with Dan!


The author after a few drinks knowing he is not getting a book-babe!

It was a good party and I was sorry to see it end. Everyone left. I stayed around the bar and had one more for the road, walked over to the subway and went back to the cheap(er) part of town where I was staying.

Thursday

Drinking my vodka and lime
I look around
Leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

You've heard of the "lost weekend"? Well, this was the "lost Thursday." I woke up with a hangover. As I've said before, I don't trust people who don't drink because when they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they are going to feel all day. I knew it would get better for me... but I don't remember if it did or not!

I grew up about 15 miles East of Manhattan, in a town in Long Island (aka Lon Guyland) and I'd never in my life seen the Statue or Liberty or Ellis Island... except in a picture. So I dragged myself out of my hotel room, caught one of the subway trains down to South Ferry where Battery Park is, and for the first time saw BOTH the Statue an Ellis.

I thought a lot about how so many people coming here from oppressed cultures (ie. the Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe) who first saw the Statue and who were processed through Ellis and what an adventure they must have had arriving in New York with the clothes on their back and knowing maybe two words of English. This country may have lots and lots of problems but even now the entire world wants to come here "to breathe free."

I headed uptown to the bookstore at the Met. Now why would I want to go to the Met? Well, I'd heard of an 'incredible' book that was their largest seller... Bird Songs. Now why would this be at the Met. I still don't know but it was there... and also on Amazon, so I found out. Anyway, I paid a buck (they ask for a donation and I was only going to be there for 20 minutes) to see the Medieval knights in armor... a period of history I'm interested in. I think I was Charlemagne in a past life... or perhaps one of his knights.

Don't talk of love
Well, I've heard the word before
It's sleeping in my memory
I won't disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I'd never loved,
I never would have cried

Anyway, from the Met I headed down to the Whitney. Now you all know that I'm a product of the '60s and that I was a hippy with the long hair, the tie-dyed shirts and the bell-bottoms. However, I actually missed the Summer of Love in San Francisco... as I was trying to get the Basics of Love in the back-seat of a '65 Plymouth Valiant... and as everyone knows, girls did not "put out" in a Plymouth. The Whitney was having a much talked-about exhibit of works called The Summer Of Love. Well, they wanted $18 to see the exhibit, so I went to downstairs to the bookstore to see the official exhibit book. After looking at it I decided that there was nothing there that was worth the $18. Actually, the best part of the exhibit, Janis Joplin's Porsche was sitting out in the courtyard... for free. It was fun to see. How did we all get so old... so fast!

I had some friends meet me for the annual 'free' Ben Franklin dinner. I say 'free' because there was a rumor that this year the PMA was making it invite-only... which was not a good thing since I didn't have an invitation! However, when I got there, I didn't see anyone asking for tickets so we all just walked in.

With the prices of everything in New York, I was not expecting much of a spread, but I was quite surprised with what the PMA did. There was a carving table with turkey and roast beef, along with a table of assorted sushi, pasta, breads, vegies, cheese... and of course the usual dessert table. I was quite impressed. Perhaps what the PMA saved by putting the whole thing in the 'basement' ballroom, they were able to make up in food.

I stayed for some of the awards, but to be honest, there was nothing that captured my imagination. That's not to say there weren't good and beautiful books that were nominated, there was just nothing that got my mo-jo working, if you know what I mean. One thing is true... and has been for the past few years... the quality and beauty of the independent press equals or surpasses that of any large "New York" house. Even people working off of their kitchen table can turn out first-class quality books. I dare anyone to look at the tomes nominated for Ben Franks and tell me that they don't favorably compare with anything coming off of publisher's row in NYC (yeah, I know there is no such thing anymore as "publisher's row" but you gotta like the metaphor.)

I wanted to go down to the village and maybe hit some jazz places, but I knew that tomorrow, the first day of BEA was going to be a 'killer' so I decided to go back to the hotel and hit the sack early... and sober for a change.

Friday

I get the news I need on the weather report.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.
Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile.
Da-n-da-da-n-da-da-n-da-da here I am
The only living boy in New York

I've said it in a million and one Rants. The first day of BEA is like the first day of baseball spring training. Everyone thinks they will win the World Series, everyone thinks they will be the next triple crown winner, everyone thinks they will pitch and win 20 games. I love the first day of BEA... and as always I get up early, full of energy, and head down to Javits Hall and make my way to the small press area.

Most times the small press area is empty during the early hours, but not this year. There was actually lots of traffic in the aisles. I was amazed... as were the publishers, I'm sure! The first booth that captured my imagination was


Senivision

This is a complete 'manual' and workbook for preparation for senior living. Being close to that age myself as well as being a licensed life/health agent with InsuranceSolutions123.com I was very interested in this product. If the publisher has half a brain they will license this with every financial planner on the planet. This is really a good product... perhaps the very best in the entire BEA.

Similar to the above was an interesting product called


Buttoned UP

which was another 'get organized' kit. I like the two women who run the company and I think they have a good shot at making a killing. Again, they have to think out of the box, away from the book trade and more to the gift or business trade... ie. Franklin Planners.

I didn't see too many business books this year, but one of the best was a self-help, motivational work called Knocked Down (interesting play on words!)


The author of Knocked Down

This publisher is also a stock broker. I sent her over to Midpoint Trade to see if they would be interested in her book, since she knows how to market it... something that more and more distributors are interested in these days. Yeah, yeah, yeah, THEY are supposed to do the marketing, but when the rubber meets the road, they look for authors/publishers who can pitch in. Follow the money.

Not far from the small press section was the technology section. I remember when there were a plethora of wanna-be e-book companies... but that boat sailed a long, long time ago. However I saw one interesting company called iprepppress.com.


Books on your iPod? Why not?

They have some interesting technology, but the jury is out as to whether or not people really want to read a book on a small-screen device. My bet is 'not so much."

Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl.
I held her close, but she faded in the night

When you roam the aisles of BEA you will meet everyone you ever knew in the book biz, and for me this is one of the fun parts of the whole show. Many years ago I met Cindy Frank of Cypress House at the San Francisco Book Expo. My booth was next to hers... and back then I didn't know what I didn't know about this biz. Compared to her knowledge of publishing... nothing has changed. I love Cindy... I always have.


Cynthia Frank... and friend (not me, damn!)

So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies...

It was getting close to lunch time... and you know what that means... I meet Mayapriya Long, the talented book designer from Bookwrights.com for lunch... and guess who pays? There is a long, long, long tradition in the book biz... that Maya never pays for lunch at BEA... and this year is not going to be any different than the previous 15 BEAs that we've been to.

But just before I met Maya, I ran into Andrew Martonyi of Schoolside Press and told them to join me... sort of hoping that THEY might spring for Maya's lunch.


Andrew Martonyi, his very hot wife... and his new Little Man in The Map book.

Wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake...

As always, lunch was over-priced. From years of experience I've learned to get a pasta dish... as there is a better chance that it won't kill you, as opposed to something off the grill. You ever notice that you hardly see any cats around New York City?

After lunch I went upstairs to the 'main' hall to scout out the smaller publishers who were successful enough to afford a booth away from "small press outer Mongolia." One of the best ones out there was the folks who put out a bunch of vegetarian books. I've always liked their books and they are an example of how to publish to a niche market.


The vege-head people

I looked around for the usual animal books and didn't find too many this year. However there was one interesting entry... Everyday Cat Excuses. My guess is that she put up her house and savings for this book and you just gotta wish her well. It's a fun book... which she should sell to the gift trade.


This year's BEA Cat Woman!

It was getting toward the end of the afternoon and I had to meet people for dinner in the Village AFTER stopping off at Jerry Jenkin's IPPY party... so I started to make my way to the front door. But you know that I can't resist a sex book... and this gal had a terrific one... which should get her on all the daytime talk shows if she markets it right.... Lovecrack


A sexy babe with a sex book can't miss in today's market

But I've got to creep down the alley way,
Fly down the highway,
Before they come to catch me I'll be gone.
Somewhere they can't find me.

You always have to get to the IPPY party early because the entire book industry shows up... and this year was no exception. I couldn't stay too long as I had a previous engagement... and I knew that with the maddening hordes of people there, no one was going to miss me.


No, this is NOT the 8th Ave. subway... just looks like it!

It is always my great pleasure to see Jerry Jenkins. He's one of the few publishers who year after year makes a living (and a really good living) in this business... mainly by doing things that others don't think of. Jerry is the king of 'special sales' via his Jenkins Group company.

I hadn't been at the party more than ten minutes when I ran into Mayapriya again and was able to get this shot of her and Jerry... two of my favorite people in the entire industry.


Jerry Jenkins and Mayapriya Long

I would have stayed longer but I had promised some friends that I'd meet them in what I call the 'soul' of the city... Greenwich Village... one of the few places on the planet that I'd rather live than California.

It's a long road to Caanan
On Bleeker Street
Bleeker Street

I love the Village... and I remember being in high school and coming into the city to visit the haunts of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as the beat poets. Many of the luminaries of the early 60s folks scene played in coffee houses so those of us under-age could get in... and the price was right as well. So I was looking forward to meeting some friends at a restaurant called The Red Bamboo which is the best vegetarian place I'd ever been too. They have 'fake meat' entrees that taste just like the real thing. If I lived in NYC I would become a vege-head and eat there every night!

My daddy was the family bassman
My mamma was an engineer
And I was born one dark gray morn
With music coming in my ears
In my ears.

After dinner a bunch of us walked around the village looking for some free tunes. We walked several blocks until we found a place called The Garage which had a terrific 8 piece jazz band... all for the price of a drink. If you are in NYC, you MUST go there. You won't be sorry.

It was a good day... good books, good friends, and good vibes. It was the kind of day that made you forget that the book biz is in the dumpers and that the future is not so great. But as Scarlett O'Hara would say "I'll worry about that tomorrow." I grabbed the 7th Ave. uptown train, went home and slept well.

Saturday

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

I was looking forward to today... not only to see if the crowds would return to the BEA but also to continue my search for some kind of trend or break-out book... something to show that this industry is still 'relevant' in a world dominated by U-Tube and video games.

One of the most interesting business models I've come across is from WOWIO


Free books? Will this work?

According to their website, "WOWIO opened on the World Wide Web in August 2006 endeavoring to dramatically expand access to important written works by eliminating the economic, geographic, and logistical barriers of readers while also ensuring that content owners are fairly compensated." Well I don't know if this will work, but if you take the time to learn about their biz model, you might agree that it has a chance. I won't explain it here, as it is somewhat convoluted... but DO take the time to check this out.

There was a large and well attended Afro-American section at BEA again this year. Most of the titles were poor excuses to kill trees, but a few were interesting and could go mainstream. I'm always on the lookout for a good title. It never seems to fail that any book with a good title always has a horrible cover. Even with the bad cover this book could do well.


Think what a good book designer could do with this!

Sail on silver girl,
Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.

You never know who will be in what booth. I rounded a corner and guess whom I saw... none other than the Book Goddess. You don't know who she is? Well it's Marcella Smith, the small press buyer for B&N. She was giving a short seminar to wanna-be publishers. I sat down for a few minutes and when she asked for questions I asked "How can B&N buy 2 million copies of Harry Potter and still lose money?" She smiled and said "Some things in this company you just don't question." Obviously B&N is going to use HP as a loss-leader, hoping people will buy something at full-price. I'm sure they will... but it will be from Amazon.com!


The B&N Book Goddess

One of the most interesting series that I saw was a collection of college guides, one on each school, written by students, for students and published by College Prowler. They hire students to write the booklets and share royalties with them. Not a bad deal for aspiring writers.


Where were the girls like her when I was in college? Not in a '65 Plymouth Valiant!

I don't do much in the children's section. I usually go there looking for animals... but didn't see any this year. But I did see one interesting animal book... Bearubs put out by just the nicest couple you would ever want to meet. You just never know about kids books. It's a tough market because they have to be full-color and cheap... a difficult combination for a small press to do. I hope these folks 'make it.'


The Bearubs people

Somethin' tells me
It's all happening at the zoo.

And as for animals, the only one I saw at the entire show was a bird... but it was one hell of a nice bird. I never did find out why it was there or what it was promoting, but it would not be a BEA without an animal act!


If one can, I guess Toucan :-)

And it would not be a BEA without someone dressed in a costume. This must be the year for birds. Again, I don't know why people do this... because no one ever remembers whatever it is that is being promoted.


Looks like a fun job!

Talking about a zoo, there is no bigger zoo than the People's Republic of Berkeley, California. After lunch I headed off to find Peter Goodman at Stone Bridge Press and was 'treated' to a meeting with Andy Ross the owner of the legendary Cody Books in Berkeley. I sat with Andy, his wife Leslie Berkler, and Peter and listened to them talk about the 'good old days' of book selling, when you really COULD make serious money owning a bookstore in a college town. It seems that those days are gone... and for what? A generation of video game players? We're in trouble now, Lucy!


Peter (left) and Andy Ross and Leslie Berkler

Last year pirates were all the rage... this year not so much. But Hampton Roads had a book coming out on pirates so they found some look-alikes and got a lot of traffic to their booth. I never did see the book, but Hampton has been around for a long time and if anyone can ride the wake of a trend, they are the ones who can do it.


Some of the best look-alikes I've ever seen.

I don't know where the time went, but all of a sudden it was 5 PM and I was to be at the Midpoint pizza party at six. So I ran back to the hotel to put on my cleanest dirty shirt, and got the train down Sixth Avenue to the MPT offices where they were staging their annual get-together.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
That measure what we've lost.

I always enjoy the Midpoint party... not for the food and beer, but for the people. They are my favorite distributor because they are fair, they are honest, and they have Gail Kump. Gail has what I call "book radar" in that she just KNOWS what will sell and what won't.


Not her best pix, but trust me, Gail is a book-babe!

Midpoint has a deep bench. While Eric runs the show...


Eric Kampmann runs the Midpoint circus!

...they give a lot of responsibility to their younger staff as well.


The author and Laurie Little (last's year's Official BEA Book-Babe)

Cecilia, you're breaking my heart
You're shaking my confidence daily

There is always a large and eclectic crowd at the Midpoint party. I'm not sure who these authors are but it was fun talking to them.


A few of the Midpoint guests

It would not be a Midpoint party without Mayapriya Long there (follow the free food and you will find her!). She does a number of covers for the Midpoint publishers.


Mayapriya Long of Bookwrights Design

I had a long chat with one of my oldest friends in the industry, Robin Quinn who is one of the best editors and book-shepherds in the trade. Next year BEA is in her backyard.. Los Angeles.


Robin Quinn, "Party Girl"

It was a fun party. I pitched a number of the women there but as always at the Midpoint party, I struck out. Notice I'm sitting alone here.


Al Canton, the author.

It was a wrap. I was exhausted. I made my rounds of good-byes and headed home. One more day to go.


Sunday

This is my tune for the taking
Take it, don't turn away
I've been waiting all my life

I went around the corner to the Euro-Cafe for breakfast and ran into a bunch of friends, including Mayapriya Long... and we all had the same idea... get a good breakfast since many were flying out that night. Except for running into her wherever there was free food, I had not seen much of Maya this trip as she was busy visiting publishing houses (clients) as well as seeing her niece and nephew who just moved to the city.

Over breakfast our little group talked about the show and the trade and about what we saw. It came down to the fact that this was a 'why bother' show. There was just nothing 'new' and 'exciting' to write home about. There was no one-book buzz or even the anticipation of one. None of us saw anything other than the usual collection of self-help, hobby, diet, and food-related non-fiction. And none of us saw anything in any fiction genre that we wanted to beg, borrow, or steal. This show could have been made up of all of last year's titles, or even the year before that or the year before that.

We all agreed that there just wasn't anything that jumped out at us where we might say "Wow, what a great idea for a book... it will sell zillions of copies." I got the feeling that publishers, especially the large ones, have adopted the philosophy that "If we are not going to make much of a profit on books, why knock ourselves out to create really new and interesting ones."

We all agreed that "the talk" was not about books but was about Perseus 'buying' the major publishers of PGW. If there was ever a 'star' of this show it was Perseus as they kept most of the PGW employees and paid 75 cents on the dollar for the PGW inventory... far better than most publishers thought they would get given the sordid past of the distribution sector's previous bankruptcies.

So Maya and I decided to go visit the Perseus booth as we had a mutual friend there, Lissa Warren who has risen from the "mail room" to a vice presidency position.


Maya and Lissa (right).

Perseus had the very best 'contest' going. They had wheeled in a Honda Hybrid and were giving away a one-year lease if people entered the contest. The deal was that you had to visit various other Perseus booths (Consortium, et. el.) and find the poster with the 'magic word', enter it in the entry form and get it back into the Perseus before the end of the show. I didn't win, so screw it.

Anyway, we had a nice chat with Lissa who was more upbeat than I was about the 'health' of this industry... but then again she is a VP of publicity so you would expect her to have on thicker rose-colored glasses than the rest of us.

Before saying good-bye, Maya and I visited another publisher around the corner from Perseus whom she had done two covers for. I know it is a thrill for an author to see their book displayed at BEA so it must be an equal 'high' to have any of your cover designs hanging on the wall.


Maya with her two books.

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we'd harmonize till dawn.
I never laughed so long
So long

The aisles were almost empty so it was easy to see and recognize people. I ran into a bunch of people I knew and found that a lot of them were in New York with 'other' business interests which is why I had not seen more of them at the show this year. Some folks only came for one day. It seems that many in the small press world whom I've known for years and years are looking for other ventures and plan to do publishing as a 'boutique business.' Maybe that's good for our sector... I don't know.

I guess I'm one of them as well. As some of you know, I opened up a life/annuity/health insurance agency in California called InsuranceSolutions123.com and am thinking of relocating back to the East coast, so I was running around seeing people about getting licensed in New York, checking apartments, etc. Others had a similar story. Publishing is just a hard business to make any real money in, given all the work involved. I heard it over and over. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end for the indie press? I hope not.

Anyway I went downstairs to the remainders section looking for books on the insurance industry. I thought I'd buy some titles and re-sell them... but I didn't find anything that I liked. Indeed, unlike the go-go dot-com years where the stock market was soaring and every other book at the show was on business and making a killing, this year I found hardly any business books at all.

If I become a first lieutenant
Would you put my photo on your piano?

The same was with books about the Iraq war as well as politics. Do you remember during the past presidential year there were tons of political books? In the past few years there were large numbers of pro/anti war books as well. Well this year none were featured. The only 'political' booth I found was from the Brookings people who had a small but fun booth allowing people to 'vote' their issues by putting marbles in a jar.


You could 'vote' for an issue with marbles

I always look for 'fun' booths... those who bring something in to capture the imagination. One of the best was the giant globe. Everyone stopped to look at it, including me.


It was supposed to light up but it didn't work.

Another genre I always look for is books on pets because if done well, they ALWAYS sell. I found a really good pet publisher at the show, TFH Publications, who had a great book on Aussie Shepherds. But the publisher's sales guy had his head up his ass. I told him my wife is VERY active in the Northern CA Aussie Shepherd Rescue Association and that if he would give me a copy of the book, I'd pass it on to the Aussie people and they would get them a ton of sales. But he thought the damn book was made of gold or something because he would not give me one.... even an hour before the show ended and you could hear the tell-tale "zip, zip" sound of tape guns.


This guy lost a fortune in sales I could have gotten him.

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"

I would never have believed it. I had no idea. Here I was, in New York City, where I first saw and heard Peter, Paul, and Mary at the Bitter End Cafe some forty-something years ago... I turn the corner and there, sitting in a booth, sighing his new Puff The Magic Dragon book was... Peter Yarrow. It was because of PP&M that I developed a strong interest in folk music and even took up the guitar (I still have a 1965 vintage, one owner Gibson J-45 instrument in mint condition... which I've not played for some 25 years! It's probably worth a few dollars... cost me $150 new in 1965.) Being about 3 feet from one of the heros of my youth really did put me into a dream-state.... with tons of memories pouring through my info-overloaded brain.


Is it about dope... or not?

I went around the floor looking for audio samplers. In years past there used to be a ton of audio books as well as a few musical CDs that you could scarf. Not this year. Not much audio at all. However there was one music publisher called Putumayo World Music giving away a terrific sampler CD of their Latin-Jazz. I'm going to buy some of their CDs. It's really quite good. Check it out.


Talk about a major book-babe!

The show was winding down. You could hear the "zip-zip" of tape guns being used. I thought I should take a look at some of the service vendors. Some of the usual victims were there... I got the usual cold-shoulder from Author House. They recognized my name from all the bad things I've written about them in the past. I talked to the Lightening Press folks and there is not much new with them. There was one new entry this year...


Who ya gonna call?

... called Arbor Books. These folks are another soup-to-nuts publishing outfit for wanna-be authors, but they put a lot of emphasis on ghost sales... which run between $15,000 and $40,000. They claim to have a long list of celeb clients who have used them and from talking to them my guess is that they do a good job. Then again, how hard is it to ghost a book that is going to be used mostly for 'vanity' purposes?

April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain;
May, she will stay,
Resting in my arms again.

I always like to look at the calendars as these usually have the best photography found at the book show. There were not as many as there used to be but as usual Amber Lotus had the best.


Beautiful art on their calendars

It was all done. The sound of the tape guns had reached a crescendo alerting everyone that it was time to collect what books you wanted and get out before the mass exit... of the ten people left in the hall who were not exhibitors!

We can end your daily strife
At a reasonable price.
You've seen it advertised in Life.
You'll feel just fine
Now.
Buy a big bright green pleasure machine.

There was one more exhibit I wanted to see so I ran up to the Google booth. I think Google realizes that they have a PR issue with publishers and they were there to try to calm the copyright fears of the large houses. (They could care less about the small press... like who has enough money to sue Google?) I spoke with some of the reps there and for a bunch of geeks, they seemed to 'get it.' The jury is still out on how 'responsive' the search giant will be toward the book biz, but they know they are in the spotlight and I'm sure they don't want to get a 'Microsoft' reputation (anyone know anyone who 'likes' Microsoft?)


Will they be the new Microsoft?

Per usual I went up to the PMA booth to say farewells to old friends. Everyone was tired and some were sad that this show was so uneventful, that it had no buzz, and broke no new ground. I ran into my old friend Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds there. I think her picture summed up the feeling of all of us. It was over, and we just wanted to go home... and none of us could figure out why we bothered to come in the first place!


"Why did we come to this show?"

EPILOGUE

I usually end with a long diatribe on my opinions of the show, but as I said, the whole thing seemed like a "why bother." Was it fun? Sure? Was it worth the money? Well, I don't think so, but I say that every year. I still wonder why publishers spend the bucks so that they can show their books... to other publishers. You could count the number of blue-badges (book buyers) you saw at the show on one hand! To me, the show was missing 'something.'

It was also missing two long-time members of the publishing community... Dan Poynter and Jan Nathan. Dan was off on a worldwide speaking tour. He said he regretted missing the show... only the second one he's ever missed... but he had an offer he could not refuse. Jan Nathan, as most people know, is battling the cancer beast, but I'm told is doing OK. Everyone in the independent press, no matter what side of the 'political' aisle they are on, are holding kind thoughts and prayers for "Our Lady of The Book," Jan Nathan.

I walked out of the hall, went to my hotel, got my bag and left for the airport. I had mixed feelings about this show, and about this industry. Perhaps 'lost' is a better metaphor for my feelings as I sat in the cab looking at everyone going places and doing things. If this show is 'the best' content we can come up with, I think we are in trouble. There was nothing that I saw that is going to give us the 'ammo' we need to compete against U-Tube or video games.

Lots of folks told me that once we get the light-weight, compact, and CHEAP electronic 'podBook,' content will again be 'king' and that generations 'lost' to the Internet will come back to books. I'm told that reading a book on your $15.95 'podBook' will be as cool as listening to music on your iPod or 'texting' on your new iPhone.

And I tend to agree. When you come down to it... everyone is reading more than they ever have in history... but they are doing it on computer screens, not from the books we sell. Once technology catches up with us (or us with it?) perhaps new life will be seen in our industry. But until then, all I can say is that when it comes to the book industry...

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

End


If you liked this special edition of A Saturday Rant or if you disagree or if you have changes to be made, please let me know by writing to: rant at adams-blake dot com.