Saturday, June 11, 2005

A BEA DIARY - 2005

Tuesday, 5/31/2005

I don't think anyone has written a book about flying at night, but one should be written because there is a certain thrill and anticipation about taking off from the West coast at midnight and landing in New York City just five hours later, ready to embark on an adventure.

And make no mistake, BEA (BookExpo America) in the Big Apple is always and adventure, if not in the people you meet then in the sheer energy you absorb... compounded by the swings from exhaustion to enthusiasm and sometimes to the 'joie de vie' of just 'being there.'

I checked into my garment-district hotel and grabbed the first of many, many cabs up to the Marriott Marquis Hotel, where the Publishers Marketing Association was holding its annual Publishing University.

I'm critical of the PMA for all of the things it doesn't do, but when it comes to putting on outstanding seminars, the PMA has always been the best of the best... and I expected the same this year as well... yet I would be surprised. "Hey Canton, you look good. Did you have some work done?" I heard the familiar voice of Dan Poynter call out. "Work done" is the code-word in La-La land where Dan lives for having a face-lift, a tummy-tuck, or a boob-job.

"Yeah, I'm now a 38-D," I replied.

It was always good to start the day talking with Dan, as I do from time to time via phone. To start PMA-U with 'the man' could be considered an omen. "Let's have lunch, my treat" the Oracle of publishing said.

But before I could answer, guess who shows up? Here is a hint. Who always magically materializes when the topic of free lunch is mentioned? Yes, you're right. The lovely and talented Mayapriya Long, book designer for Rolling Stone as well as others lucky to get on her book design dance-card. "We accept" she says to Dan. Big surprise. You know about being in the right place at the right time? When it's lunch, and when someone else is paying, Maya is right there.

As with Dan, Maya and I talk from time to time but it had been a while. Each year since the invention of ink (or so it seems) we have shared the same booth at PMA-U, with Maya talking to publishers about her design service and me showing off our Jaya123 web service.

We told Dan we would meet him later and we proceeded to set up the booth and catch up on events.

Big things are happening for Mayapriya. Her Bookwrights company has broken through to the 'next level' and is doing more and more work for larger New York publishers who have very exacting standards and who can afford to hire anyone they wish. She has a major project in progress for Rolling Stone and is talking to Little Brown and others. She had a whole dance-card full of New York appointments this week... but she said she likes to balance her work, taking as much or more work from Independent and micro publishers.

She said the NY houses are not as fun to work with as indies, hence her table at PMA-U. Plus she now has some folks working under her that she needs to keep busy. I hope she has to take THEM to lunch!

It was good to see Jan Nathan, Executive Director of PMA, along with her son Terry and her daughter-in-law Andrea. PMA is a family operation and you could not ask for a nice family to be a member of. Lots of folks have a problem with what PMA does or doesn't do, but everyone likes Jan and her minions.

PMA has expanded the "U" and Tuesday is almost a full day of classes, while in the past it was mostly a registration and "kick-off" day. Thus, a lot of the students were registered for the whole schedule and the vendors saw more of them then in Tuesdays of the past.

As promised, Dan came by and we followed him to the hotel restaurant for lunch. Dan has taken up the mantle of opposing Bowker for their constant increase in ISBN prices and he is advocating that there be other agencies empowered to 'market' ISBNs, along the lines of how web URLs are sold and registered. We had a long talk about the issue and I told Dan I would do whatever he wished in tilting at the Bowkers windmill. He said he was going to have a meeting with them during the week and we came up with a list of issues he should raise.

Back at the booth I met more potential Jaya123 victims (oops, I mean customers) while Maya went to one of her 'big-time' appointments in the city. When class began, I walked around and talked to some of the other vendors. None of the printers are working at capacity and were more concerned at a potential increase in paper prices due to demand from China and other developing lands.

I asked about the Jenkins Group Printellectual program and none of the printers thought it did a whole lot for them. The margins in printing are just too low for them to give away any more of their profit points. Finally, the green paper 'revolution' is starting to take hold, however one of the vendors said that it takes more energy to create recycled stock than kill trees. Until I see an independent study on the issue, my mind is still open.

It was good to see Barry Merrill at Alexander's Digital. I've been a customer of theirs and recommend their work. However I had a nice conversation with their competitors, Fidlar Doubleday and maybe next time I'll get a bid from them as well. I want to expand our publishing division via the paradigm that has worked for us... information we can sell to business and government, not the trade, for obscene margins! For example this book, MoveIT sells only 200 copies a year... but it sells for $100 each and I have about a $75 profit with no returns. What if you had ten of these? Do the math!

I had a nice chat with Becky Pate, the gran fromage of Central Plains Book Manufacturing and neither of us has heard from Marty Gilliland in a long time so we don't know if he is still in the printing business with United Graphics or not. Marty's dad used to own Gilliland Printing which later morphed into Central Plains. Marty and I were good friends but he seems to have dropped out of sight.

As the day wound down I had good feelings about the publishing business... feelings I had not had in the past several years. Maybe the bad times were behind us. I'd know more when the BEA opened in a few days, but the first day of PMA-U had been a good one.

Wednesday 6/1/2005

The first few hours of the PMA-U are always exciting because of all the new faces you get to meet. Before the seminars begin the students visit the vendors and learn about some of the products and services available. Of course, I had my trusty laptop computer in order to demonstrate our Jaya123 order-entry, invoicing, and back-office system for publishers and other small businesses.

One of the first to come see me was Eric Feder who has a book on where to park in Manhattan. It's a great concept and should do well if he markets it correctly.

Erik getting pointers from Poynter

An old friend who came to chat was David Cole,joined by Deb Robson. David is a consultant in the San Francisco area and Deb owns Nomad Press which does books on knitting and textiles and will soon be doing some YA titles.

Deb, David, and Maya .... all hoping I'll take them to lunch!

About the only real PMA news is that they are "changing" the name to: PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. I have no idea why, or what it means. My guess is that they will STILL do nothing but just have a fancy and longer name to do it with :-)

Of course there was no "new business' at the required 'annual meeting' because PMA never lets the membership have any kind of a say in what goes on and what is done with their dues. They did announce that they had their 4,000th member, an all-time high, so why should they change anything? Jan and family are making money, no one seems to give a damn that the PMA is an emperor with no clothes, and the dues just roll in. I wish my business ran so well!

After lunch I spoke to more of the students about Jaya123 and was happy that there was so much interest. And while class was in session I strolled around meeting some of the first-time vendors. I was surprised to see Kirkus Reviews and Book Standard there. I learned that Kirkus wants to shed it's 'dowdy' image and go 'modern.' VNU Media wants to be a player in the same league as PW. I wish them luck as Foreword never wanted to take on that role... and someone should!

Francis the Kirkus 'babe' at her Book Standard booth

And talking about Foreword, Victoria Sutherland again had a booth at PMA. I don't know why she does this since she gets little if any support from PMA in the form of advertising. PMA often 'buys' a cover of PW (which is being changed.... no more covers for sale.)

And it was good to see my old friend Gene Schwartz, one of the patriarchs of this business. The buzz about Victoria is that she wrote a private letter to her closest 4,000 friends in the business complaining about PWs new make-over... and ended up pissing off a lot of folks. I have not seen the letter so I don't know more than that.

Victoria (an original official Book Babe and Gene Schwartz (the grand old man of publishing)

As the day wore on I was visited by a bunch of old friends... and one of my favorite is the Queen of Booklets, Paulette Ensign who has made a zillion dollars teaching people how to make money in short subjects. Paulette ONLY wears purple. I don't know why. Take it up with her if you want to know!

Paulette wearing purple.... as usual

At the end of the day the PMA staff started putting out the Ben Franklin nominated books in preparation for the banquet. I had other plans and would miss the ceremony but I took a long look at this year's crop of books and marveled at how far the small press has come in the past ten years. Every book on the table could have come from a "New York" publisher... that's how good they looked.

I found Mayapriya and wished her good luck as one of her books was up for the Best Redesign award. If anyone deserved a B.F. it was Mayapriya, but book design is a very subjective area so one can never predict who the winners will be. I packed up my computer and went off to my dinner appointment.

Thursday, 6-2-2005

Walking into the PMA area of the hotel I saw Mayapriya with a big smile. "I won, I won, I won" she said. "And that means an extra good lunch because I WON." I was really happy for her. Sometimes there is justice in the world. In fact it must have been justice day in book-world as Peter Goodman ALSO won a Ben Franklin award. After all the years he has been in the biz he deserved one... if for no other reason than just staying in business! Thursday is always the "killer" day at PMA-U.

All the folks that did not see the vendors on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was most of them, line up on Thursday. I spoke with a zillion people who came by the booth. Usually Mayapriya's covers are the big draw, but this year I think I equaled her as there was a lot of interest in Jaya. People like the idea of a web-based solution where they don't have to install any software and can use it anywhere in the world. Publishers understand that to be successful they have to have an office infrastructure that is easy to use and which 'works'. Jaya123 does both... and a lot of my customers came over to tell me so which made me feel good.

While people were at the booth I asked about how they liked PMA. The answers I got were not what I expected. Most years people rave about the program, but this year I got a lot of "I wasn't too impressed" comments. PMA says they made some changes but since I had not been to any of the sessions (except Dan Poynter's wonderful parody on how The Bible was printed) I could only go by what I was told. And what I was told was not reassuring... at least not if I were on the PMA board.

The one thing I heard over and over is that PMA jammed too many speakers on the panels and there was too much 'selling' by the panelists. Think that maybe PMA needs to establish some guidelines on this issue... or PAY the speakers so that they won't feel a need to 'sell' to "make the gate" so to speak. One of the most knowledgeable people in the biz was at PMA, Brian Judd came this year with yet a different 'wife.' It's an old inside joke, started by Dan Poynter. See last year's BEA Diary if you want to be 'in' on it.

Brian with yet a 'new' wife.

The keynote address was the worst that was ever given... even worse than last year. It was so bad I don't even remember who the speaker was. I walked out to make some calls as did a lot of others. You'd think that after last year's disaster speaker the PMA would come up with someone "better" but this year was another dud.

And don't take my word for it. Ask anyone who was there. Big snoozer!

As the day wore on and I met with lots of potential Jaya123 victims (opps, I mean customers) the talk started to gravitate away from PMA and on to the various parties being held tonight as well as to tomorrows BEA. A lot of the vendors grumbled that PMA did not hold an 'ending reception' as a last chance for people to see and speak to the vendors. In past years PMA would have an ice cream social or some kind of desert bar as the final gun sounded. Everyone used to look forward to this, but PMA decided not to do it this year. I suppose cost was a part of it.

And talking about food, the fare at both the PMA lunches was the worst it has ever been. Jan Nathan said that the prices were outrageous because it was New York. I suggested that maybe she should have opted for a smaller and less expensive hotel, but you can imagine what kind of a reception I got... same one I always get when I recommend anything to anyone on PMA.

On the whole, the PMA-U was a success for the vendors but a lot of the students were not as happy with the content of the courses and everyone bitched about the low quality of the food at the lunches.

But PMA-U was over and now part of the past. It was time to PARTY! First up was the Writers Collective reception. A lot of folks don't like Lisa Grant... and for good reason. She is successful... and a lot of folks in this business (as in academia) resent anyone who 'breaks out' and gets to the next level. And to be successful you sometimes have to "kick butt," something Lisa does well. She thinks out of the box and has some major plans for her company... not the least of which is taking on Ingram! We talked about her plans and ideas and while I can't say much now, you really want to keep your eye on this woman.

At the reception I saw Shel Horowitz and Mayapriya there. Maybe they were on a date or something! (Just kidding!) Anyway, Shel talked us into going uptown to Steve Carlson's reception for his Publisher's Assistant software. Shel is the subway maven so we took the train. I'm more of a cab person (Maya is more of a limo person!) so it was kind of fun.

Steve and I are direct competitors but we get along quite well. I also knew his wife many years ago in COSMEP days. So we went up to his suite in the Edison hotel for some Vermont cheese and wine. The cheese was good, but the wine would gag a goat! (Why every state in the union feels they can produce a quality wine is beyond me!) The only sour note of the event was the 'tude' of the programmer that Steve hired to write Publisher's Assistant. When Ron Lawrence found out who I was, he was colder than Vermont in Feb. What did he think I was going to do? Steal his code or something? Very unprofessional. Had he come up to my booth at PMA I would have been happy to answer anything he asked. There is nothing worse than a prima donna programmer.

As I understand it,the Steve SOLD Pub Assist to this guy and Steve does marketing and support. Because Lawrence was so rude, I'm not going to give him a link here. That will show him :-) What a PITA! Anyway, it was nice to meet Steve and see Lisa again after so many years.

After some bad wine and good cheese, we walked a few blocks to where the Pub-Forum list dinner was being held. For those who don't know what Pub-Forum is, it's the email-list with about 500 experienced publishers. While the Self-Pub and Pub-L lists are larger, they are mostly full of newbies. Pub-Forum is for those who have climbed (or slimed) to the next level in this industry. This dinner was put together by two of the most wonderful Book-Babes in the industry, Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak and Fern Reiss of Publishing Game fame.

Sharon and Fern looking good... as usual

I always like to meet up with my old friend Peter Goodman of Stonebridge Press. This year Peter had some big news... he had recently sold his company to a Japanese firm, which made sense seeing as how he does books on Japan. Peter was retained to run the company, probably at a huge salary... meaning that he will finally have to WORK for a living now.

Peter (at left) chatting up Erik's wife

It was also good to see the evil list-mom, Marion Gropen. Marion and I agree on nothing except that we both are good at kicking butt. Marion is one of the system admins of both Pub-Forum and Self-Publishing... meaning she has no life!

Marion, with Shel Horowitz and John Harnish

After the dinner, we went around the room where we were told to introduce ourselves and say something "interesting and unknown". I introduced myself as Harry Pariser. It got more than a few laughs, but nothing compared to Claire.

Claire Kirch brought down the house when she said "... and what is interesting about me is that I'm Al Canton's love child." Well that answers the question of "Who's your daddy!" :-) Claire is from Duluth and Dick is from North Carolina. We all agree that all the folks that left those areas to go to California raised the IQ all around.

Dick and Claire... California Dreamin'

Here is the entire group pix.... I'm in the white polo shirt on the left... just thought you'd want to know :-)

The top publishers in the small press

It was the night before BEA and all of us were curious as to what kind of show it would be and what buzz in the book biz would cut through the clutter. Many of us who have been around for the past several years know that the industry is in trouble. Young people are reaching for game consoles and not books. Trade publishers are caught in a cost/price squeeze... the retail and wholesale channel want lower prices or greater discounts while the cost of production continues to increase. There is only one thing that can save us. We all know what it is, but no one seems to talk about it anymore. E-books.

Will this be the year that we see some new reading tablets? Will this be the year that content becomes 'value'? Will this be the year that heralds in a new order, where there is some kind of parity between the small press and the large publishers? These were all the issues discussed at the various tables at the Pub-Forum list party. We all had predictions and we all knew that in less than 24 hours we might have some answers.

Friday, 6-3-2005

I say it every year... because every year it's true: The first day of BEA is like the first day of spring training in baseball... everyone's going to hit the ball out of the park, be an MVP, and win the World Series. And this is never more true then in the small press section, where mostly one-book publishers have plunked down a fair amount of cash in the hope that fortune will favor them.... that Katie Couric is just in the next aisle and headed their way... that the B&N buyer is going to place a huge order... that Terri Gross of Fresh Air is going to book them for an interview.

So every year when I first arrive at BEA I head on over to the Small Press section and every year I'm greeted by bright-eyed and bushy-tailed publishers waiting for that something special to happen. Well, if it happens it won't happen to more than a few of them because this year's crop of small press books were about the worst I've seen in years... the typical assortment of diet books, dumb self-help titles, and of course novels so bad that they were a total waste of good trees.

As I walked through the area and talked with some of the publishers I was amazed at how little most of these folks knew about publishing. They had not read any of the books, not subscribed to any of the list-serves and never heard of PMA or a local publishing association.

Maybe it was fitting that the first booth in the small press section was SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America ... why isn't it SPANA?) Scott Flora, the Executive Director of SPAN was very optimistic about the direction of the book industry and the small press in general. He is going to have his yearly seminar in Denver this October and I'm sure he will draw a good crowd of people. Scott is an optimist. You know the old joke. A pessimist says "Things can't get any worse." An optimist says "Sure they can!"

Scott Flora of SPAN. Always the optimist.

Each year I ask Scott to take a more active role in 'the politics' of the book biz, and each year I get a polite smile, his answer that this is just not his mission. I don't understand because its the ONE THING that could differentiate his organization from PMA... and he just does not get it. But that's his problem, not mine. We had a nice chat and I moved on.

One of the very successful publishers who should NOT be in the small press section is McPherson & Company. They have been around forever and they have the best T-Shirt I've ever seen in the book biz. On the front it says "I think therefore I read" and on the back "I read, therefore I think."

Mr. McPherson of McPherson & Company

Another 'winner' in the small press was the Sex Doctor, Dr. Darcy Luadzers. She has an interesting book called Virgin Sex. She's a licensed therapist and her book has received good reviews. It could break out if she can get some marketing and media going.

Dr. Darcy... can she sell sex or what?

I was taken with a guy who collects jokes. He's a cop who writes comedy on the side and has put together a series of small joke books that I'm sure will be bought by tons of public speakers. His name is Harry O (at least that's the name on his books) and he has a shot. He's very funny and my bet is that he will get a shot at the big time on late-nite TV.

Harry O has Jay Leno in his gunsights!

It was slim pickings in the small press area but one thing that did catch my eye was not a book, but a board game. With all the hoo-ha about spirituality and the religious right and so on, maybe this game, Enlighten, will catch on. I can't figure out why she brought it to a book show, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Only a blonde takes a board game to a book show?

It was getting to be lunchtime and you know what that means. YES, another BEA lunch I get to take Mayapriya to. And she was waiting for me at the PMA booth where everyone hangs when they are too tired to walk anymore.

The first impressions we all had of the show was that while it was very crowded, there was nothing we could find that was 'hot' or that had 'buzz'. It was just a random collection of books, with nothing all that exciting to be found.

After having lunch with Maya (talk about overpriced pasta) I went back downstairs to spend more time in the small press section, along with the sidelines and kiddie book publishers. The one thing that really amazed me was how much activity there was in the African-American area. There were a ton of publishers with booths there and the aisles were jammed. I didn't see anything all that different from previous years but I guess there was SOMETHING because the place was jumpin'. The one title I did see that I liked was called Matrix about dealing with the legal system. The author, a lawyer, has a good idea and it's a book that I would buy.... assuming he ever puts a good cover on it. It was butt-ugly!

Ugly cover (backdrop) for a good title that will sell.

I walked through the sidelines section and saw the usual array of stuff you find in bookstores. One item I've always liked is Robin K. Blum's "In My Book" bookmarks. There was nothing new this year that I saw as a must-have item.
Robin K. Blum, the queen of bookmarks

I was tired and I wanted to rest up and change for the IPPY party that night so I got on the bus for the ride back to my hotel. Everyone looks forward to Jerry's IPPY shindig. Each year it gets bigger and better and this year was no exception. As soon as I got there I ran into Jerry who introduced me to my "date" for the evening. If you've ever wondered what a short, funny-looking Jewish guy looks like standing next to a tall blonde goddess, well here you are. (And I wish I was a foot shorter!)

Wife? What wife? I have a wife?

Of course, you can't have a party without genuine book-babes and I ran into Claire Kirch and a friend standing next to the bar. And when Claire has a few belts in her, she is funny as hell. I don't know who the guy is, nor who the other babe is, but we had a nice chat. I struck out with both Claire and the babe!

Claire and her babe-friend.

I hope the guy was not husband... or I'm dead! You can't have an IPPY party without a sex-kitten and this year was no exception. Before the party kicks off, they award the IPPY prizes and my guess is that this book won for author in best leather outfit.

I don't remember the book but I remember the author!

There was a lot of good book-talk at the party as well as a great band. What I never knew about Mayapriya is that she is a dancing fool! The woman can cut a rug! I danced with her but she wore me out. It was a good thing Erik and his wife were there so she could dance with them! The food was good, the talk was good, the atmosphere was good, and the babes were GREAT. Jerry made me take a picture of him with THREE babes so that maybe he could live down his reputation of growing up in a neighborhood where every kid on the street got a football for Christmas and Jerry got a briefcase!

Whatever these babes were writing... Jerry was reading!

It was a great party.... best one Jerry has ever thrown and I thank him for it, as I'm sure does the entire book industry. But all good things must end and I found myself walking back to my hotel in the rain. But I didn't care. Life was good... as it always is after my third martini! Tomorrow would be another day.

Saturday, 6/4/2005

I met Mayapriya for a quick breakfast (on me, of course) and we caught the bus back to Javits for day two of BEA. I was done with the small press (downstairs) and started in what was called Premium Small Press in the 'main hall.' It was here that I saw one of the most beautiful books I'd see at the show. This was a coffee table tome called Into the Okavengo. The author/publisher (Burgoyne Publishing) took most of the pictures of the animals and wrote the poems. It was a stunning book.... and she had done everything wrong... she printed it in the USA spending a fortune, and did not understand that she had to sell this expensive tome to the gift trade and not the book trade. I sent her over the PMA and Jan Nathan told me later that the book should sell well to zoos and to the travel market. I loved this book. Please buy it as it deserves to be successful

A wonderful book, simply beautiful. A joy to see.

Not far from the picture book was a booth for This is yet another business targeting writers with the mission to help them get published. I don't know if they can survive the competition from iUniverse and AuthorHouse but you never know. They had the ONLY free T-shirt at the show so they get an honorable mention from me. Besides, they were cute.

The girls of Legwork

I found only ONE editor who took a booth at the show. She said business was really good and she was lining up all sorts of jobs, so maybe this might be a venue for others in the editing trade? There was also a book designer there but his pix didn't come out well.

The editor-owner of Blue Falcon
Later that morning I rounded a corner and saw the most amazing site... a huge white dog. Now you folks know that I'm a sucker for all dogs... but this dog was something else... probably the most beautiful dog I've ever seen. Amadeus, The Traveling Dog is the title of the book and these folks have a zillion dollar property on their hands if they do it right. I loved this dog and the book. The dog is only 2 years old and will make the town of Snellville, Georgia more famous than Duluth!

I'm the one in the tan jacket!

Before lunch I again went back to the PMA booth to get some opinions of the show. This time people were more convinced than ever that the book biz is in trouble because there is nothing really new, nothing that is going to get legions of young people to pick up books instead of cell-phone games. And we came to the conclusion that the show was crowded because the big publishers sent their secretaries, mail-room clerks, and janitors! When I came off of the lunch line I saw Gene Schwartz sitting alone so I joined him. We had a nice chat about the book biz, Foreword magazine, and old friends we had known... and who were no longer with us... like Gail Golumb.

That afternoon I went by a booth that just confounded me. I've seen some ugly and dumb booths before, but this was the worst. I spoke with the two women and left there even more unsure of what they were trying to sell. If you know what Book-Byte does, let me know!

It's a mystery to me!

It seems that there are more and more writer-based organizations these days. I knew of the Sisters in Crime women's mystery writers group, but I didn't know there was one for romance writers. At the booth was a woman signing what looked to be the only romance novel in the entire show! Hope Tarr's Tempting

Romance writer Hope Tarr... she won my heart :-)

In the kiddie section there was the usual array of books all hoping for a branding deal with Disney or Time-Warner. Not going to happen. However I saw one property that had potential. It was Sandy Claws and Chris Mouse. I'm no expert on children's books but I liked what I saw here and the husband-wife team seem to know what they are doing. They have a shot.

It could happen. You just never know in this genre

Coming around a corner I hear a voice saying "Canton, I thought you were banned from the BEA." I turned around and there was one of my official Book Babes (now a book mom) Julie Hardison of Midpoint Trade. Julie really knows what will sell in the book biz, and is the go-to girl at Midpoint. She and Gail Kump run the show and Eric Kaampman will agree (and he said so to me at his booth!) Julie and I had a nice chat and she was also of the opinion that there wasn't a whole lot to be excited about at this show. She invited me to the annual Midpoint pizza party but I had other plans already. It is always good to see her.

Is Julie a book-babe or what?

That was about it for the afternoon. I told Mayapria that I'd be her date for the Small Press party and we could share a cab. So off we went to the Splashlight Gallery to join about two hundred other small press party-hounds. And who should we meet but the past-PMA president Nick Weir-Williams along with his lovely new wife. The happy couple had a new baby and this was about the first time they had been 'out' in a while. It was good to see Nick as he had not been at previous BEAs while employed at Reed. Now he's a packager and has to do the marketing game so he gets out a bit more.

Good pix of Nick, lousy one of me!

Not long after arriving we ran into Peter Goodman. He said that he wanted to celebrate the sale of his company and asked if Mayapriya and I would join him for dinner... his treat. Now dinner in New York can cost a few bucks so we were very honored by his invitation. He took us to a lovely little Italian restaurant near his hotel on the upper west side. He and Maya talked about book design while I looked at the Italian girls who came in. I thought Peter would "retire" and become a book designer as he enjoys that kind of work and is good at it, but it seems his new boss (the firm that bought the company) has other plans for him. Anyway, dinner with Peter was the highlight of the day for me. There is no nicer man in the publishing biz than Peter Goodman. It's true.

Peter Goodman on right. Not sure who is at left.

It had been a long day and a fun night. I thanked Peter for dinner and decided to walk the twenty blocks downtown. It was a cool, clear night, the city was alive with people going here and there and my energy level was renewed by the hike. However by the time my head hit the pillow, I was out. Sunday, 6/5/2005 Everyone likes Sunday at BEA because it is not crowded. Did I say "not crowded?" Wrong. Make that read EMPTY. I had never seen a BEA day with fewer people in the place. Places like the main entrance which are usually teaming with people, was like a desert.

Where is everyone?

In the past, Sunday afternoon brought out the "Chrismas shoppers", mostly librarians and other book-folk willing to scarf up any book that was free to be used as gifts. Every major publisher had tons of ARCs (advanced reading copy) stacked up. In the 'old days' these were often of poor quality and simple covers. Not anymore. Short-run digital printing can create books that look just as good as those from giant web presses. And you didn't have to step over hordes of freebie-grabbers to get to them either.

You could open a bowling alley in the aisles

Of course the one book that I really WANTED was not being given away. This was a series of guides on where to take your dog in different cities. While this was not new, the treatment was fresh and clean. I liked how these were done... and no matter how much I complimented the publisher, she still wouldn't give me a copy. She had a zillion of them there, it was Sunday, most were bent or 'hurt' so what did she think she would be able to do with them? Another case of a publisher not knowing that they are in the SALES business, not the DISPLAY business!

She looks good, but not too smart, if you ask me!

Unlike past years we did not see much of Hollywood at the BEA. My guess is that the added profits of doing a tie-in with a book are just so small by entertainment industry standards that they don't want to bother with them. However there was one familiar face at BEA this year.

Hey, I like cats too!

I started to walk down the long aisles rented by the major distributors. They re-sell this space to their publishers and I've always wondered if it was a good investment. I guess it is as I see the same publishers in the same distributors booths each year. And one of them is old friend Janet Hardy of Greenery Press. No, she does NOT publish books about trees, believe me she really doesn't. If you are into whips and chains she's your girl (or guy... take your pick).

Janet is part of a whole 'nother world!

It was almost closing time and I had still not found a good business book. I gave up looking for any computer books (all the rage a few short years ago) but I thought I'd find a few good biz tomes. And after a short while I found one that I really liked, Rhonda Abrams' Successful Business Plan guide.

I KNOW good biz books and this is one of them!

By three in the afternoon it was so empty that the vendors were all starting to strike their sets and boxing up their wares. You can tell its over when the screech of tape-guns fills the hall and the sales reps are begging anyone who walks by to take anything they want! I wandered back to the PMA booth for one last consultation with others as to their 'take' on this year's BEA. It ended as it started. Nothing from nothing.

Had the show NOT been held, no one would have missed much. This year the book biz looks like it is suffering a creativity-gap. And the absence of most of the major media bore this out. I don't know why the big publishers who pay huge fees to Reed for booth space even bother. There are few if any bookstores who send reps, there was not much media coverage, and if there was a lot of rights buying, I didn't see or hear of it.

It seems to me that the BEA is becoming something like that old game we played as kids "You show me yours and I'll show you mine." Larger shows than BEA have gone the way of the dodo-bird. COMDEX used to be largest computer and software expo on the planet. It's gone. And I would not be surprised if BEA heads down the same path. There is no doubt that BEA is fun and that it's interesting (to a point) but is it worth the cost? I don't know, but I don't think so. It was over. While walking out I was trying to come up with an overall impression of the show when it appeared right in front of me. If there is one way to describe this industry than I think the following picture tells the story.

I've seen the future and it is us!

I walked out of the hall and in to a beautiful New York Sunday afternoon. E-books are coming I kept saying to myself. E-books are coming. All will be good again. Alan N. Canton, President Adams-Blake Company, Inc Adams-Blake Company provides the JAYA123 service to small businesses of all types. JAYA is an order-entry, billing, invoicing, inventory,royalty, and financial system used on the web ....nothing to download or install... and it cost all of $14.95 a month. "It's cool as a moose." Try the free demo at at:

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