Saturday, June 17, 2017

BEA Diary 2017

By Alan Canton...  with editorial assistance from Mayapriya Long and Alice Walker
[Note: Click on any pix to see it enlarged.]

Dear BEA Diary readers:

You've heard the expression "The way it begins is the way it ends?" That's how it was at this year's BookExpo.

It started quietly... and it ended quietly.

There were some good aspects of the show, but from what people told me, there were a lot of bad ones as well. When I saw this year's mundane (a nice word for ugly) show banner-graphic (above) I had a feeling that things were not well in BookExpo land.

(It did not go unnoticed that they dropped the "America" part of the show name: BookExpo America.)

There was a small change for me this year because I decided to wear big-boy clothes. Why? In the past I always went to BEA to cover the show for this electronic fish-wrap as well as other media that we contracted with. So jeans and a t-shirt were fine... what else would you expect a working journalist to wear?

But this year I wanted to 'pitch' some small and mid-size publishers as well as distributors on a new web platform we recently rolled out... Ecom sites for authors:

Our new service.

Here is the sell-sheet that we've been sending to authors and publishers (printed by the best book printer on the planet... Color House Graphics, contact Phil Knight. You will be glad you did.)

This was printed by ColorHouse Graphics. Contact Phil Knight.

As website developers, we've long known that authors and publishers leave money on the table by not selling merchandise branded to their books.

Obviously their books are going to be sold on Amazon and Amazon is going to take most of the book money. There is no way around that. You have to fish where the fish are and Amazon is the biggest tank of them all.

But t-shirts, hats, glassware, totes, mugs, and a thousand-and-one other things can and should be sold by authors and publishers who have titles with characters or content that can be 'branded.'

Any author who has a readership and who can get eyeballs to their site can make (serious) extra money selling items off of their website... as long as they can source items (locally?) at a good price. They have to buy wholesale and sell retail.

(And CafePress is not the answer here... way too expensive... we can help with sourcing: Contact Guy Achtzehn at The Promotional Bookstore, (guy at msgpromo dot com or 717-846-3865. ) Provide your Association of Publishers for Special Sales membership number for a 10% discount.)

Instead of hosting on the author's website we always recommend that they host with a secure, professional Ecom ISP. We have partnered with Shopify. We did a year of research and decided that Shopify is the best in the business. We're talking about $30 a month for their server. Who can't afford that?

Here is one pitch we make to authors of children's books:

Parents will buy character-branded items on books their children love. If junior loves (mythical) Ronnie The Rhino books, he will drink anything mom gives him in his Ronnie The Rhino cup. He will eat the vegetables (he says he hates) from the Ronnie The Rhino bowl. 
Avid adult readers love to buy mugs, totes, hats, shirts related to the books they love!

So to make our pitch,  I had to at least look the part of a serious business person (which I actually am) and so I wore a coat and a tie... and I'm certain that no one in the publishing industry (been around 30 years now!) has ever seen me dress like this (Note: the tie was handmade by Alice Walker Batik):

Not so bad for almost 70!
It has been two years since BEA has been in New York and in the interim the city opened a new subway station near Javits Hall.  That meant we could get there from the Upper East Side in about 15 minutes instead of an hour on the free cross-town bus that BEA provides for the two days of the show.

Having grown up about fifteen miles from Manhattan, I know the subway system rather well, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Well, what I didn't know is that the change from the "6" train at Grand Central to the "7" train is a half-mile walk in a steamy-hot underground tunnel that smells of urine and is home to many of New York's homeless. It is not a place you want to be if you can avoid it.

While the subway cars are jammed with people, they are well air-conditioned. However, the stations are not. In the summer you will think (and sweat) like you are in the Mexican jungle!

And then when you get to the Hudson Yards station it is a quarter-mile walk to Javits... and in the blistering hot summer sun, by the time you get there you are dripping wet. It is not so bad in cool, casual, summer clothes, but in a dress shirt, tie, and jacket, it is draining.

When I got in the door to Javits Hall I had to sit in the cool lobby for about fifteen minutes to cool off and dry off. I took the bus back to the hotel and again to Javits the following day. The subway is not a good option from the Upper East Side when you want to look good after arriving at the hall.

After getting my press badge (which took two minutes because there was no line) I went off to find the press room where I figured I could sit and have stale pastry, some coffee or a cold soda. In previous years the press room had food, soft drinks, computers, telephones, couches and all the amenities of a press office. If an event promoter wants to attract and keep press, a few day-old doughnuts and bad coffee go a long way toward accomplishing that.

Reed Exhibitions has a rep for putting on great shows... they have been doing it since the dinosaurs roamed the Bronx! Let me tell you how surprised I was to see the 2017 BEA press room:

Not even BAD coffee!!
This is BEA saying "Hey media people, we really don't give a damn if you come or not!" There was no (bad) coffee, no soda, no juice, no two-day-old pastry... and no media. Do you see the water 'cooler' in the back. It was broken... the water was tepid and tasted like Clorox. The press room was in the bowels of Javits and the escalator ride back up made you feel like you were ascending from the depths of hell!

Renegades? Nope. I had Dante's Inferno in mind here

I finally made it up to the exhibit floor. What do you see in this pix... taken when I got up there?

Where is everyone?
If you said "space" you win the prize. There was lots and lots of space at this year's show. In the past we'd see 20,000+ people show up and this floor would be mobbed. This year the show promoters claimed about 8,000 but it felt like 800!

This is my 21st consecutive BookExpo and we've never seen aisles this wide before. You could hold a basketball game here.

The NBA could have booked this space!

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My traditional first stop is the IBPA booth. In the past they had a coveted central spot but this year they were way over in the "Outer Mongolia" area of Javits. And in past years they would resell a lot of booth space to members. This year I saw maybe four member booths. Terry Nathan, Chief Operating Officer of the association said that the show was a "ghost of its previous self" and he has seen more of these shows than I have.

Terry Nathan (right) and the author of this fish-wrap
After a nice chat with Terry, I "walked off to look for (BookExpo) America" (with apologies to Paul Simon)

I've seen a lot of diet books in my day but not one for children who are picky eaters. The American Academy of Pediatrics claims that the Pickey Eater Project is a one-of-a-kind book that will transform even the most finicky eaters into fledgling foodies. I wonder if it works with broccoli! Will it work on my cat?

Elyce Goldstein and Kathy Juhl of AAP

It takes a lot of guts to sink your hard-earned dollars into a poetry tome but Elizabeth Yahn has done it. I think this was the only poetry book I saw at the show this year... Haiku for an Artist. It had a terrible cover, but that happens so often when small publishers think they know cover design better than the pros (like at Bookwrights Design.) The poetry inside was nice and I hope it sells well for her and her publishing company, Hither and Yahn (cute name.)

Elizabeth Yahn and her poetry book

I saw a lot of good children's books this year and I will showcase some of them. One of the ones I liked a lot was by Christopher Neal. His retro-style illustrations in I Won't Eat That coupled with his easy-to-follow story is the perfect match for even the pickiest eaters — and the patient souls that feed them. (He should try to team up with the AAP people above!)

Christopher Neal, author and illustrator (I wish I was dressed as comfortably!)

When I saw the offerings of Obvious State I just fell over. Their stuff is just terrific. I wish I could have them source totes and things for our clients but that is not their biz model. They only sell through book retailers. I love their designs.... huge talent here.

Evan Robertson of Obvious State

Usually there are tons and tons of people around the Penguin, Random House booth and those of the other large houses, but as I said, the crowds were simply not there. You could set up a bocce ball court here.

Maybe room for a bowling alley?

I liked the illustrations in the MVP Kids Media books. Their mission is to inspire honorable character into young men and women through healthy mentoring relationships, preparing Real MVP Kids® to live responsible and meaningful lives. It would be huge if they can break into the school market.

Stephanie Strouse (illustrator) and Megan Johnson 

One of the few places that was able to draw a crowd was the large Ingram booth. They were not giving anything away (I checked!) and since I had a media badge on, the somewhat reclusive company would not talk to me. They have always been known as the "Tennessee Book Mafia" although these days their 'power' is not what it used to be. Amazon has cut them down to size so to speak. Now that they don't hold "life or death" over the publishing industry, people tend to like Ingram a bit better. It seems that Amazon has taken their place on the 'most disliked' list.

Standing room only!

(Sorry for the following pix being out of focus.) In the old days the autograph lines would spill out into the aisle and be jam-packed with people (mostly New York area librarians) seeking a free book from a favorite author (or a free book from any author!!) Even the local librarians didn't show this year!

Even free books couldn't draw a large crowd

I did not see a lot of pretty coffee-table books this year as I have in past years. The best one at the show was from Abbeville Press called Ancient Skies, Ancient Trees. Staking out some of the world’s last dark places, photographer Beth Moon uses her digital camera to reveal constellations, nebulae, and the Milky Way, in rich hues that are often too faint to be seen by the naked eye. It is a really nice book. Buy it so more like this will be published.

Nadine Winns of Abbeville Press

There are not a lot of self-proclaimed fairy tales written these days but Dundurn had one that I liked. Deer Life (due out in Sept.) is a "wicked" fairy tale of witchcraft, bullying, revenge, and a mysterious bowler hat and it includes the author's own whimsical illustrations.

Kate Condon-Moriarty of Dundurn

There is always something at the show that has nothing to do with books and this year it was the VeggieDome which is supposed to keep vegetables fresh on your table (not in fridge) for up to six days. How could anyone live without this?

Sara Grodensky of VeggiDome (love her hair!)

From time to time you will walk by some empty booths... the buyers just don't show or have travel problems. There was this one booth with no sign and no furniture and two women who were sitting on the floor filling in coloring books. I have no idea who they were. They saw me take their pix and held up a pix of some kind but would not talk. Maybe they thought I was the show-police? (Last year coloring books were all the rage. They are gone now... good riddance!)

Who are these women?

The very best booth at the show was run by The Canning Diva, Diane Devereaux. She is selling a book on preserving food as well as hawking canning gel and other items. Her booth was easily the most professional I'd seen. And it stands to reason since she has done a number of trade shows in the gift sector. If I ever need a marketing guru, I will hire Diane!

Dianne's booth was 'best in show'

Every year there is a puzzle company. This year was Pinkey Puzzles. ​Mary Overly and Sally Davis are a mother/daughter team that share similar interests in travel, architecture, art, photography and puzzling. They started their jigsaw puzzle company in late 2016 with five puzzle designs, all from original photos taken by the puzzle makers. Very cool!

Sally Davis and Mary Overly Davis (mom and daughter)

The next book is kind of special. Beautiful Scars: A Life Redefined is sure to inspire you. Kilee Brookbank was severely burned in a house explosion. Kilee’s resilience compelled the family to create an avenue to bring to light powerful stories of survival with the goal of supporting charitable endeavors and organizations. This pix only shows her left arm. I could see her right arm and back which are also disfigured from the fire. She is a strong woman... huge inspiration here and I wish her all the best... she deserves it.

The author.... seeking to help others

I've never seen an illustration agency exhibit at BEA before and this one is from the UK. Lemonade Illustration Agency is a multi-disciplined, worldwide illustration company serving clients in many countries and timezones. Below is Lucy Quinn whom I wish lived in my timezone!!
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds???

Every show has someone playing music. But from Turkey? I have no idea who this is but he was very good playing whatever it is that he was playing! 

He's not The Boss, that's for sure!

There used to be a time when we all had something called "good taste," a time when some things were just accepted and not analyzed to death. But we are way past that and are now to the point that we are teaching kids about bodily functions that they don't need to be taught about. I leave it up to you to decide on whether or not we really need to kill trees for this book by Marty Kelley!

Rod Garnett of Sterling Publishing (wishing he didn't have to hold up this book!)

Having an eye-catching display always draws attention and this book from Britannia International about the BCCI scandal was one of the better ones. 

Great display

There are always new services that make their debut at BEA, as well as some that have been around for a long time that exhibit. I'm not sure what Submittable is all about and who really needs it, but it looks interesting. Most publishers get way more submissions than they want, but maybe this company is filling a need by getting publishers better content?

Madison Brooke from Submittable

In the micro-press area BEA sold tables for authors to show their books (see background below.) One table had a very interesting tome; I'd never seen such a title before... targeted to children... Someone I Know Lives in Prison by Rebecca Myers. This could be a big seller for her if she can market it well. I'm sure she could get on every talk radio and TV show. I hope she does.

Look for her on The View one day

I saw very few authors pitching mystery books this year. It seems everyone had a kid's book instead. Barbara Nachman brought one of her books called Catwalk Killer a mystery genre in the fashion industry. She had a lot of personality and I'm sure she will get some exposure... although I've always said that it is crazy to publish fiction and compete against the large New York houses. Fiction is a tough game to win for small, independent publishers. I don't think there is an easier / faster way to lose money except maybe to give it to your wife (or husband!)

Author Barbara Nachman

I always look for someone in costume, especially dressed as a character from their book. This year I didn't see anyone except a young woman with a sci-fi/paranormal book wearing a great shirt. I don't know much about the book because her website doesn't say much... but it looks interesting: Enlightened.

Billie Kowalewski, Author

Every BEA since the dawn of time has an animal, most often a dog. This year's BEA dog is owned by Lynne Swanson, DMV, author of Smile, a book about dog psychology targeted to helping people train difficult dogs. Everyone stopped at her booth to pet her dog. Rumor has it that he tried to take out the Amazon rep! 😋

Everyone (except maybe Amazon reps) loves a booth with a pup!

One of the most imaginative books I saw at the show is a children's book... The Doll Cat. Shanthi Thiruppathi is the author and illustrator of The Doll Cat book series. She draws her inspiration from the real-life stars of the books, her cats. The Doll Cat books tell a story of a young girl named Fiona and her Doll Cat, and it is just so well done. If you have little girl, get her this book.

Shanthi Thiruppathi, author and illustrator

Every once in a while I meet someone roaming the (very wide!) aisles whom I just take an instant like to and Sam Glazer was that guy. Sam is a publicist who works with book authors and publishers to 'get the word out.' I don't know much about his work, but after some thirty years in the business I can can spot people who know their business and those who just talk the talk. Sam knows his biz and I'll be happy to refer people to him

Sam Glazer: I just liked him!

The last exhibit I saw was very interesting. It was kind of a "kickstarter" for authors providing for an unusual way for them to fund their books by selling pre-order copies and getting publishers interested. It is somewhat complex so I suggest you read about Publishizer yourself.

Tian Daphne from


I liked the show. It was way smaller in both booth-space sold and of course in attendance. But that was not actually a bad thing for those covering it because with less to see it was possible to spend more time at each booth.

I also saw about as much diversity in titles as well as sidelines as I've seen at the larger shows in the past.

What I didn't see was a lot of what used to be called 'blue badges' meaning bookstore buyers. I also didn't see all that many media people either. Most of my journalist friends simply didn't bother to cover the show. I don't know why, but I do intend to ask.

There has been a lot of criticism of this year's show... the best known published in Huffpost by Brooke Warner titled The Incredible Shrinking BookExpo: A 2017 Recap From An Indie Publisher’s Perspective.

Another notable negative review came from the influential CEO of IBPA, Angela Bole who said:

"The show floor chatter about the health of BookExpo wasn’t positive. Many people speculated that ReedPOP may, in fact, be phasing out BookExpo in favor of BookCon. Bets were made as to how long this phase out might take and where the industry would go for its B2B interactions should it happen."

Angela might have heard 'chatter' but I heard loud yelling and screaming from exhibitors asking "Where are the people? Why did I spend all this money?" I had no answer for them.

Even the popular speaker events did not draw large crowds... the show organizers didn't even bother to fill the space with chairs... that would not be filled.

Lots of empty space

In years past I would see twenty to thirty close friends. We would have dinners and attend parties. None of them came this year. I was the last man standing such that I found myself on Thursday night eating dinner alone at my favorite Chinese restaurant on the East Side... a few blocks from the hotel I always stay at when in NYC.

Will I attend in 2018? If they have it, I will go. I love the show. I get energized. I get ideas. I meet new people and make new friends. I get new web business for our company. But I'd be hard pressed to convince anyone else to go, unless they get the same energy jolt from the show that I do or who love New York City as most ex-New Yorkers do.

I do not understand why the large publishers spend huge amounts of money for floor space and expend a great deal of time and effort getting people and product to the show. What do they get out of it? If anyone knows please write and tell me.


Thanks for reading this... a lot of work went into it and I hope your time was well spent. Below are Diaries of previous shows, should you be interested.

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You MAY (and are encouraged to) share the link to this piece or reprint any part of it without prior permission so long as you use the following attribution:

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
NewMedia Create
"Websites for authors, publishers, and small businesses at an affordable price"
Fair Oaks, CA

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Per usual, if you have comments or corrections, please send them to bea-diary at adams-blake dot com